You just sent your child off to his/her first year of college. You helped them work out a monthly budget, bought them clothing with the school mascot, and moved them into the dorm or apartment. Did you sit them down and have “that talk” with them? You know, the one about the dangers of tobacco use? If you didn’t, there’s still time.
Many college towns have hookah lounges or bars where students gather to communially smoke flavored tobacco from a water pipe. Your student may not want to smoke cigarettes, but they may not realize smoking tobacco in a hookah, even occasionally, is just as dangerous and addictive as cigarettes.
A typical hookah smoking session lasts between 45-60 minutes and the amount of smoke users may inhale could be the equivalent of 100 cigarettes. The water in the pipe cools the smoke and can make it less irritating, but it does not filter out the harmful chemicals, such as lead and arsenic in the smoke, or the tar, nicotine and heavy metals. The cancer-causing agents found in cigarette smoke are also present in hookah smoke. Carbon monoxide is present in cigarette smoke, but hookah smoke may contain 11 times more than cigarettes as burning charcoal is used to heat the tobacco.
Some hookah bars provide new tips for the ends of the hoses, while others may provide alcohol wipes to clean off the tips. If multiple people use one hookah pipe, there may not be enough hoses for everyone to have their own. Therefore, smokers may be sharing the same hose and tip, and passing around infectious diseases such as TB, hepatitis, and herpes, as well as the common cold and flu.
While the water in a hookah may “cool” the smoke, it also causes the smoker to inhale more deeply. A recent study examined three sets of smokers: hookah smokers, deep inhalation smokers and normal inhalation smokers. Non-smokers were used as a control group. Researchers used a questionnaire to assess respiratory symptoms among smokers prior to using a spirometer to check lung function. Hookah users and deep inhalation smokers were found to have higher incidences to wheezing, chest tightness, and cough compared to normal inhalation cigarette smokers and non-smokers.
There is no safe level of smoking, even if it is through a water pipe. Giving your student the facts about hookah allows him or her to make informed decisions that may affect their health for the rest of their life.