The photo below should look familiar to you.
Well, if it doesn't ring a bell, that is Hookah.
Hookah is a water pipe usually used to smoke a specially prepared tobacco. It is also known as Narghile, Shisha or Goza, depending on what part of the world you are in, and it is bad for you.
A typical modern hookah has a head (with holes in the bottom), a metal body, a water bowl, and a flexible hose with a mouthpiece.
How does it work? The tobacco is heated in the bowl at the top of the hookah and the smoke is filtered through the water in the base of the hookah and is then drawn through a rubber hose to a mouthpiece.
Hookah smoking is very social, often done with friends at hookah bars or lounges. It is also not uncommon to find the same mouthpiece passed from person to person.
Hookah use is on the rise, especially among young people. In some studies, it was found that 22-40% of college students in the USA had smoked hookah in the past year.
The tobacco in hookahs is often flavored and sweetened, giving the smoke a sweet smell and taste. There is a public perception especially among young people what hookah smoking is generally low-risk. It is often looked at as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
If you thought that way, you are absolutely wrong. Hookah smoke is actually dangerous and carries same risks (if not more) as cigarette smoking. Take a look at this screenshot from the Centre for Disease Control's website:
In fact, according to a document released by the World Health Organization, a one-hour hookah session is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes based on the volume of tobacco smoke inhaled.
Here are 8 reasons why smoking hookah can harm you and your friends:
1. It increases the carbon monoxide level in the blood.
Hookah smoke contains carbon monoxide, a very poisonous gas that is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It is normally produced from exhaust pipes, incinerators and gas furnaces. It binds to red blood cells and limits their capacity to carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and signs of an increased blood level of this gas are dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, headaches, confusion, shortness of breath and even loss of consciousness.
2. It can cause cancers.
Hookah smoke contains tar, heavy metals and other cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. In fact, tobacco smoke has been found to contain as many as 7,000 chemicals. Out of these, about 70 can cause cancer. The smoke from the tobacco in hookah has been linked with lung, bladder, and oral cancers.
3. It can cause respiratory diseases.
Hookah smoke can cause lung injury and respiratory diseases. 8 out of 10 cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are caused by tobacco smoke. Hookah smoke also increases the likelihood of developing asthma and can trigger attacks in people who are already asthmatic.
4. It can cause cardiovascular diseases.
People who smoke hookah put themselves at risk of developing diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. Hookah smokers are at a higher risk of having coronary heart disease, stroke, and even heart attacks. The toxins in the smoke injure arteries, making them narrow and harder. Hookah smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack when compared to those who haven't smoked it.
5. It can spread infectious diseases.
Because of the social nature of hookah smoking, diseases like tuberculosis and oral herpes can be spread. Many times, hookah is smoked in groups, with the same mouthpiece shared among different people. If one person is infected with tuberculosis or oral herpes, these infections can be transferred to others from the mouthpiece. It is important to know that people who are infected with this diseases may not show obvious signs.
6. It can affect fetuses.
Pregnant women who smoke hookah as a safer option to cigarette put their babies at a higher risk of developing respiratory diseases later in life.
Also, babies who are born to mothers who smoked hookah regularly when pregnant usually weigh less than those born to women who never smoked it.
7. It can cause infertility
Just like cigarettes, hookah use can cause infertility. Men who smoke hookah are more likely to have a lower sperm production than those who don't smoke. Sperm quality and movement can also be affected.
In women, hookah smoke can cause a hormonal imbalance, decrease egg quality and even lead to miscarriages in those that are pregnant.
8. It is addictive.
It's bad enough that hookah smoke can affect a person's health negatively, but what is worse is that you can get stuck on it. Hookah contains nicotine, the same addictive chemical in cigarettes that keeps you coming back for more.
In conclusion, despite its growing popularity, it is important for you to know that smoking hookah is not safe, in fact, it is dangerous.
Hanging out with friends at hookah bars is also a bad idea because of second-hand smoking. People who breathe in hookah smoke (even though they aren't smoking themselves) are also at risk for developing the same diseases as those who smoke it.