Hookah: A Dangerous Indulgence

Your students may know some of the dangers about smoking and tobacco, but once he or heads off to college, the experimenting may commence.  Many college and university campuses in Florida are smoke- or tobacco-free, but that doesn’t stop the students from heading off campus to indulge in what is known as “social smoking” at the local hookah bar or cafe. HookahLocated conveniently close to college campuses, these establishments offer a casual Mediterranean or Middle Eastern ambience where students can hang out with friends and a bowl of their favorite flavored tobacco.  Many users buy into the myth that using a hookah to smoke tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes, but they need to know the dangers.

A hookah pipe is a exotic-looking device in which tobacco is placed in a bowl (at the top), heated by foil-wrapped coals. The burning coal and tobacco creates smoke which is pulled through water in the base by the smokers using flexible tubes.  The tobacco is flavored with molasses, fruit or honey and has other flavorings to sweeten the taste and make it more appealing to users. The biggest hookah myth is that the water removes the harmful toxins from the tobacco making it safer.  But it’s just not so.

“Hookah uses a cruder form of tobacco than cigarettes, so the impurities, nicotine levels and carcinogens are higher, ” says Dr. Tushar Patil, an oncologist in India.   The volume of smoke one hookah session produces is about 50,000ml of smoke (50-200 puffs) versusNXT_HOOKAH_2_FT1-620x415 500-600ml (8-12 puffs) from one cigarette. Hookah smokers not only inhale deeper because the water cools the smoke, they hold the smoke in their lungs longer. Hookah smoke contains 36 times more tar, 15 times more carbon monoxide and 70 percent more nicotine than a cigarette, according to information from the Quit Tobacco website.  Users have reported side effects such as headaches, and feeling light-headed and dizzy after smoking.   Since carbon monoxide is given off by the coals and smoke, just being in the room where hookah is smoked can be dangerous to your health even if you don’t smoke.

The picture above is an example of the students sharing a hookah and passing the tube around, each time using the same tip. Not only are they sharing a hookah, they could also Smokebe sharing tuberculosis, hepatitis, herpes, and other illnesses such as a cold and the flu. And since you don’t know how often the tubes or hookah pipes are actually cleaned, you don’t know what other infectious diseases are lurking inside.

In a study of volunteers who used both hookah and cigarettes, urine tests revealed higher benzene levels (a carcinogen) and pyrene (a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon- PAH) when smoking hookah versus cigarettes.  Benzene is associated with leukemia and lung cancer while pyrene is linked to immune problems and cancer.   If you don’t get sick from the tobacco and smoke, think of what you could be passing on as you pass the tube.

States with indoor smoking bans in place need to include hookah and not exempt it from regulation.  Doing so creates the illusion that it is different from other forms of smoking and that it is safe.  It is not.  Until that happens students need to know the facts and the dangers of hookah so they can make a more informed choice.  As the hookah poster states in French: “Tobacco kills.  No matter how you smoke.”

Find additional information about hookah at these sites:
Quit Tobacco site: http://www.ucanquit2.org/facts/hookedhookah.aspx
“Youngsters don’t realize the dangers of smoking hookah”
Hookah smoking delivers carcinogens and carbon monoxide




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