By Alicia Smith, Project Manager, CADCA’s Tobacco Program
Not only is hookah smoking dangerous for your health, but the idea of the whole thing seems pretty gross to me. How many strangers would you share your straw with if you all had different mouth pieces to attach to the sipping end? Not many, if any, I’m sure. No matter how sweet the taste, the reward wouldn’t be worth the anxiety of worrying where that person’s mouth had been.
Well, this form of waterpipe smoking is becoming more and more popular among 18 – 25 year olds in the United States. Most patron their favorite hookah bar several days a week for two hours or more. It’s the new social scene – advertised as a place to relax as many offer the cultural belly dancing performances along with your hookah. Hookah smoking originated in India and the Middle East; it’s a tradition not nearly as new to their social scene as in the United States.
Sadly, the growing trend comes with more smoke blown over the facts. Medical professionals are concerned that the health risks are largely misunderstood by hookah smokers. Some people assume toxic chemicals are filtered out by the water, making hookah smoking a safer alternative to cigarettes. But, with hookah, you’re vaporizing sugars and nicotine with specialty charcoals! That doesn’t even sound safer, not to mention the increased risk of fire or spreading infectious diseases.
Hookah tobacco is basically the same as other tobacco and can cause the same illnesses — heart disease, emphysema, and cancer of the mouth, lung and trachea — the result of inhaling tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. Hookah smokers run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning evidenced by lightheadedness and nausea because concentrations are much higher compared to cigarettes.
As sweet as the taste of the flavored tobacco, the risks are far from sweet. One session could last one or two hours – equal to smoking a half to one pack of cigarettes! So, the next time your county or city wants to open up a hookah lounge, remind the community that hookah smoking is just today’s hipper version of cigarettes.