The use of hookahs began centuries ago in ancient Persia and India with new forms of electronic hookah products, including steam stones and hookah pens, being introduced constantly. These new products are battery powered and turn liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals into an aerosol, which is inhaled.
What is hookah?
Hookah, also known as a narghile, hubble-bubble, shisha or goza, is a water pipe with a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe and a hose used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors, such as apple, mint, cherry, chocolate, coconut, licorice, cappuccino, watermelon, etc.
Hookahs come in different sizes, colours, shapes, styles and 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.
Currently, limited information is available on the health risks of electronic tobacco products, including electronic hookahs
For hookahs, specially made tobacco is heated then the smoke passes through water and is then drawn through a rubber hose to a mouthpiece. It is important to note that the tobacco is no less toxic in a hookah pipe than in a cigarette, and the water in the hookah does not filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke.
Hookah Smoking Compared with Cigarette Smoking
One smoking session for hookah can last for up to 60 minutes which implies that hooker smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale.
- Recent studies have revealed that in a typical 1-hour hookah smoking session, users may inhale 100–200 times the amount of smoke they would inhale from a single cigarette. In a single water pipe session, users are exposed to up to 9 times the carbon monoxide and 1.7 times the nicotine of a single cigarette.
- Calculations have shown that the amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 milliliters (ml), compared with 500–600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.
Although many users hang on to the believe that it is less harmful, studies have shown that hookah smoke contains many of the same harmful components found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine, tar, and heavy metals.
To explain better:
- Water pipe smoking which is akin to hookahs, delivers nicotine—the same highly addictive drug found in other tobacco products.
- The tobacco in hookahs is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal, and the smoke is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke.
- The heat sources used to burn hookah tobacco releases other dangerous substances, like carbon monoxide which may put hookah users at additional risk.
Hookah smokers could be at risk of having same diseases as cigarette smokers such as:
- Oral cancer
- Lung cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Cancer of the esophagus
- Reduced lung function
- Decreased fertility
- Low birth weight babies (for pregnant women who smoke hookahs)
- Reduced lung function leading to chronic lung disease
- Bladder cancer
How does hookah increase my risk of heart and circulatory diseases?
If you are still in doubt as to if hookah can increase your risk of getting a heart or circulatory disease, this is to confirm that it can! This is because of the harmful chemicals they contain like nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.
These harmful chemicals and metals have the ability to make the walls of your arteries sticky, so fatty material can easily stick to them. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack and if this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain unfortunately, it can lead to a stroke.
Is hookah good for pregnant women?
Studies reveal that pregnant women can also be at risk of the same kinds of heart and circulatory diseases and may want to discuss the risks of smoking shisha or cigarettes during pregnancy with their healthcare provider before smoking.
Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, the smoke still produces harmful levels of toxins which can be either just as bad for you or even more harmful than smoke from tobacco-based shisha.
Is second-hand hookah smoke harmful?
Some persons argue that they do not smoke but hang out very often with smoker friends or find themselves in places where smoking is allowed. Second-hand smoke (also known as passive smoke) is when you breathe in the smoke in the air from someone else’s hookah or shisha pipe and the smoke they breathe out. Second-hand smoke from hookah pipes is dangerous because it contains harmful substances like carbon monoxide, toxic chemicals, and toxic particles.
When you’re socializing with friends and family who smoke, you may feel like it’s difficult to avoid the second-hand smoke. You may want to try to keep your distance or excuse yourself while they smoke to reduce the risks to your health from breathing it in.
How often should you smoke hookah?
With all you have read above, I believe the answer to this question solely depends on you now. This is relative in my opinion and depends on your desire to maintain good health, your addiction level, peer pressure among other factors.
How to quit hookah
I want you to know that if you have taken the decision to quit smoking hookah, you are really brave and I am proud of you as this is not an easy decision. It is an amazing step towards improving your health.
As a first step, it is important to make an appointment with your GP or personal doctor. Your local pharmacy may offer stop smoking programs. They will help you find the best ways to stop smoking and suggest medication or nicotine replacement therapy that can ease the transition process.
You might also want to pay attention to the situations that make you want to smoke. For example, if you always smoke when you’re stressed, tired or drinking alcohol, plan ahead for these moments so you develop new ways to cope with them.
Remember, even if you’ve tried and failed before, every fresh start counts and you can do it
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