Hookahs: Smoke Gets In Your Lungs
Hookah use began at least five hundred years ago in ancient Persia and India. It spread throughout the Middle East and Asia, and was widely used during the Ottoman Empire (15th century). By the late 19th century, Turkish women of high society used hookahs as status symbols. In the late 20th century, sweeter additives and more flavors were developed in Egypt in an effort to attract female consumers. Today, hookahs are popular throughout the world, including the U.S., and go by many names: waterpipes, narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, and goza.
Hookahs are used to smoke specially made tobacco that is moist and very often flavored. There are 4 major components to a hookah:
· Water bowl: the jar at the bottom of the hookah that is filled with enough water to submerge the lower end of the body tube a few inches
· Body: a hollow tube that connects the water to the head
· Head: Tobacco is placed in the head of bowl, which is covered with perforated tin foil or a metal screen. Coal is placed on top of the screen and heated
· Mouthpiece: a hose that carries the smoke to the user
When one inhales through the mouthpiece, air is pulled through the charcoal and into the bowl holding the tobacco. The hot air, heated by the charcoal, vaporizes the tobacco without burning it. The vapor is carried down through the body tube, into the water jar. It bubbles up through the water, losing heat, and fills the top part of the jar, to which the hose is attached. When a smoker inhales from the hose, smoke passes into the lungs, and the change in pressure in the jar pulls more air through the charcoal, continuing the process.
Many hookah smokers consider this to be less harmful than cigarette smoking. On the contrary, hookah smoking delivers the same addictive drug, nicotine, and it is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking. Hookah smoke has been shown to contain toxins like carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar, and heavy metals, in concentrations that are as high, or even higher, than those in cigarette smoke.
· When compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke is known to contain higher levels of arsenic, lead, and nickel; 36 times more tar; and 15 times more carbon monoxide
· Even after it has passed through the water, hookah smoke contains many of the same harmful toxins as cigarette smoke. The hookah smoke does not burn the lungs when inhaled because is cooled through the water. Even though the smoke is cooled, it still contains cancer-causing toxins
· A hookah smoking session may expose the smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than occurs when smoking a cigarette
· Due to the method of smoking, including frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation, and length of the smoking session, hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the same toxins found in cigarette smoke
· The charcoal used to heat tobacco in the hookah increases the health risks by producing smoke that contains high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals
· A typical 1-hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs. The volume of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 milliliters, compared with 500 to 600 milliliters inhaled when smoking a cigarette. A 45 to 60 minute hookah session exposes the smoker to approximately the same amount of tar and nicotine as one pack of cigarettes
· Just like smoking herbal or “natural” cigarettes, herbal tobacco exposes the smoker to tar and carcinogens. Even though it is often soaked in molasses or honey and mixed with fruit, but it still contains cancer-causing chemicals and nicotine
· Evidence shows that hookah smoking carries many of the same health risks and has been linked to many of the same diseases caused by cigarette smoking, such as lung, bladder, stomach, and oral cancer, respiratory disease, and low birth weight in babies
· The use of shared mouthpieces during smoking sessions can spread infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, herpes, influenza, and hepatitis