Hookah smoking is a growing trend in the U.S., especially among young people. College students in particular are using them more than ever, and the number of hookah cafes is increasing around the country. Many people who use hookahs consider themselves to be nonsmokers or at least only recreational smokers. Many don’t use traditional cigarettes and consider hookahs to be a safer alternative. These people would be disappointed to find out that hookah smoking is dangerous and it can lead to addiction.
What Is A Hookah?
A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco and other substances. Hookahs have been around for centuries and are popular in the Middle East. Today the use of the hookah has spread far outside this region and is now popular in the U.S. and other Western countries. A hookah is a tall, vertical pipe with a water bowl at the bottom and a hose with a mouthpiece through which the user inhales the smoke. The tobacco used in a hookah is usually flavored. Traditionally, hookah smoking is a social activity. Several people sit around the hookah and share it.
The Dangers Of Hookah Smoking
Perception about smoking a hookah is contrary to reality. It is not a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking and it delivers the same nicotine that cigarettes do. The tobacco used in a hookah pipe is similar to that used in cigarettes. It includes many of the same toxins. Hookah smoking has been shown to increase the risk for respiratory illnesses, lung cancer, periodontal disease and low birth weight.
While hookah smoking presents many of the same risks to the user as cigarette smoking, there are some significant differences. A hookah uses charcoal to heat the tobacco. This means that the inhaled smoke includes metals, carbon monoxide and a number of other chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Smoking a hookah also exposes the users to more smoke than if they simply smoked a cigarette. A hookah session, as a social activity, typically lasts for an hour or more. This means the users are being exposed to the harmful direct and secondhand smoke for a long period of time.
Even when hookah users are smoking so-called herbal blends, there are risks. These are still tobacco-based products and may contain nicotine. These blends are also harmful to health in that they include toxic and cancer-causing substances in the inhaled smoke.
Hookah Smoking Leads To Addiction
Another major risk associated with smoking hookah pipes is addiction. It is also another false assumption of many hookah smokers that you can smoke the pipe recreationally and not get hooked. Hookah smoke contains nicotine, the addictive substance found in cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive, and using it recreationally almost always leads to addiction.
A recent study from Dartmouth University surveyed young adults who did not smoke cigarettes at the start of the research. Some did smoke hookah. Two years later, those young people who used hookah were much more likely than the other participants to be smoking cigarettes. Most of the young hookah smokers reported that they started smoking the pipe as a recreational and occasional social activity. For too many of them, though, it led to a dangerous habit.
The next time you consider joining friends around the hookah pipe, remember that there are consequences. This is not a safe activity. Even doing it once causes damage to your health. Encourage your friends to socialize in a different way and avoid joining your friends without participating. The secondhand smoke is just as damaging.