Many American campus-towns have begun to take on a Middle Eastern flair. The exotic practice of smoking flavored tobacco holds great appeal for students too young for the bar scene, who see hookah lounges and their colorful, communal water pipes as a great place to gather with friends.
The first myth is that the water in the pipe filters out harmful contaminants, making hookah smoking less risky than cigarettes.
FALSE. The smoke from hookahs has been found to contain high concentrations of aerosols, carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar and heavy metals, which are ingested at greater rates than when smoking a cigarette. The charcoals used to heat the tobacco for smoking add to the toxic mix. None of these harmful substances are water soluble, and they are not “filtered out” by the hookah pipe.
During a typical hour-long session, according to a 2005 World Health Organization study, hookah smokers inhale 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke typically inhaled when smoking a single cigarette. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the practice raises the risk of oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer and esophageal cancer, along with reduced lung function and decreased fertility. Include the risk of spreading herpes, hepatitis and tuberculosis through shared mouthpieces and you have a recipe for a costly public-health problem.
Hookah smokers are also under the impression that their form of smoking is less addictive than cigarettes.
FALSE. Tobacco consumed in any form is addictive, and hookah tobacco is no exception. Though it may be sweetened, flavored and mixed with herbs and other substances, the tobacco remains nicotine-filled. The greater volumes of smoke involved translate into greater levels of nicotine exposure.
It is time for hookah smoking to be considered what it is: another form of
tobacco use, and one that is, if anything, more dangerous than cigarette
smoking. Public-education campaigns would help get the word out. Policy makers should take steps similar to those in 2009 when the Food and Drug Administration banned cigarettes flavored with clove, fruit or candy that might appeal to young people. Hookah smoking may look exotic, but its impact on public health is going to be all too familiar.
If you are a smoker, Contact Glasscock Dental with any of your oral health concerns.
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