Here in Wichita hookah bars are popping up (seemingly) everywhere! Waterpipe tobacco or “hookahs” are becoming a popular way to smoke. Studies have shown nearly 20% of college students have smoked hookah in the past 30 days.
My little foray into the history books revealed that a 17th century physician in India proclaimed tobacco sent through water renders it “harmless.” This falsehood continues today.
The hookah allows the smoke to pass through the water before it is carried by a hose to the smoker. The tobacco burns using wood cinders or charcoal which likely increases health risks as they produce their own toxic chemicals. The health effects are substantial.
According to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention:
- The addictive drug nicotine is delivered and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke.
- The cool temperature of the smoke allows for greater depth of inhalation
- A typical 1-hour-long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100-200 times the smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.
- Hookah smokers are at risk for cancers (like oral, lung, stomach and esophagus), reduced lung function, and decreased fertility.
- Sharing a waterpipe mouthpiece with companions may spread tuberculosis and hepatitis.
The tobacco is often sweet and flavored to appeal to those who would not dream of smelling like tobacco. The fruity-flavored nicotine still emits
- carbon monoxide
- heavy metals like lead, copper, zinc, cadmium, and chromium
- volatile aldehydes (like formaldehyde–the chemical to embalm dead bodies )
Just sitting in a hookah bar is equivalent to smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes and has high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and cadmium.
Just say “no!” and meet at a coffee bar instead.