Hooked on hookah
By Shayla Armstrong
College towns are playing a huge role in recent increases in popularity of hookah lounges. These clubs are usually made up of rows of tables, each topped with the life of the party, a hookah pipe. These contraptions, as most of you well know, are made of a hose-like pipe through which smoke is pushed after being “filtered” by a pool of water inside the mechanism. shisha (the product smoked in a hookah pipe) is tobacco mixed with molasses and fruit flavors. The smoke produced is either inhaled, or held in the mouth before being blown out. Though some people believe hookah smoke is filtered, their information is false, because the water does not filter out the harmful chemicals in shisha. The fact is, shisha may have a more palatable taste than other forms of tobacco, but the level of harmful chemicals entering the smoker’s body is actually more substantial than that of a cigarette. There are misconceptions about smoking hookah, and hopefully the following research can “clear the smoke” from a few of them.
Hookah contains the same harmful chemicals as cigarettes; to think otherwise is a grave misconception. A study done by two researchers in Lebanon, Shihadeh and Saleh, compared the amount of chemicals per milligram found in both hookah tobacco and tobacco in cigarettes. An average amount of 11.2 milligrams was discovered from smoking cigarettes, as compared with a whopping 802 mg of tar from shisha. The same researchers discovered four times the amount of nicotine in shisha than in cigarettes.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless gas which passes through the hookah unfiltered and may cause the body to faint if enough is inhaled. The feeling of relaxation or highness received from smoking hookah is the presence of carbon monoxide killing brain cells. The amount of CO present in shisha is eleven times higher than in cigarettes. This drastic level of change is due to the charcoal in hookah pipes enhancing the burning of the moist tobacco concoction. Smoking hookah also allows the body to soak up unhealthy levels of arsenic, nickel, cobalt, chromium, lead and cadmium. Now, these are the most well-known chemicals found among these two deadly products, but others include harmful chemicals like Chrysene (a tumor initiator), Phenanthrene, and Fluranthracene. Other researchers like Kuala Lumpur Health Department’s deputy head Dr. Sellehudin Abu Bakar and the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced that a single session of smoking shisha yields a nicotine intake equivalent to more than one pack of cigarettes. Putting all of the chemical facts aside, shisha smokers are constantly at risk of infections like tuberculosis, hepatitis and herpes.
If you are still skeptical of the facts above, do a little research for yourself. A lot of people enjoy the light-headedness and fruity flavor from smoking hookah, but if you really crave it that much, why not just chew on an orange while sucking on a Helium filled balloon? That will be just as attractive as you sitting outside a dorm room window with a vacuum tube hanging out of your mouth.