Hookah less harmful than cigarette is a popular misconception that may have serious ramifications for the youth especially among the females. Smoking water pipes or hookahs can be more harmful than cigarettes, doctors have warned. While many hookah smokers may think this practice is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors, such as apple, mint, cherry, chocolate, coconut, licorice, cappuccino, and watermelon. Although many users think it is less harmful, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs. In-fact secondhand smoke from hookahs can also be a health risk for nonsmokers. It contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah.
Hookah smokers may be at risk for some of the same diseases as cigarette smokers.These include oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the esophagus, reduced lung function and decreased fertility.
The smoke of the hookah gets filtered through water, but smoking tobacco through water does not filter out cancer-causing chemicals, such as nicotine. These can damage the lungs and heart as much as cigarette smoke. As the tobacco goes through the water, it creates a cooling effect inside the chest unlike cigarettes which burn the occasional smoker. In both cases, carcinogens get deposited in your lungs and these can lead to respiratory diseases and cancer.
“Since hookah involves inhaling a large amount of smoke in a short span of time, the damage done to the lungs are high and can cause wheezing, meningitis and acute bronchitis.Over a period of time, it can develop into cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, led to low birth weight, lung, esophageal and pancreatic cancer. Sadly, not many hookah smokers understand the implications as many think hookah is not as harmful as cigarette”, said Dr. Amar Singhal, Cardiologist, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Delhi.
The scary part about hookah smoking is its effects on pregnant women, who may not be aware that they are inhaling tobacco. This puts the baby in danger and the child may be born prematurely, be underweight, or have breathing trouble.
Compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke contains higher levels of arsenic, lead, and nickel. It produces 36 times more tar and 15 times more carbon monoxide than cigarettes, as smoking a hookah requires longer and harder drags.
Tobacco related diseases kills about 2500 Indians daily and over 10 lakh Indians every year. And it is estimated that about 5500 youth and children (as young as 8 years old), initiate tobacco use daily. India has 12 crore tobacco users, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009-2010.