Just a Bunch of Smoke and Mirrors

Kirstie Bakke

It seems that within the past few years the popularity of hookah smoking has increased dramatically. You are seeing more and more about hookah bars, hookah cafes, hookah vendors and even people purchasing their own equipment for at home use. With all this hype around hookahs you may wonder exactly what they are, what they do and how is smoking hookah different than smoking cigarettes?

What is a Hookah and how does it work?
Hookahs have been in existence for about 400 years, originating in early India and Asia.  A modern day hookah, also known as a water pipe, is characterized by a head (with holes in the bottom), a metal body, a water bowl and a flexible hose with a mouth piece. The tobacco chamber in a hookah consists of a bowl that contains burning charcoal on top of the flavored tobacco. Typically the charcoal is separated from the tobacco by a layer of perforated aluminum foil. The charcoal heats the tobacco below, creating smoke. When users draw on the stem (mouth piece and hose) of the hookah, the tobacco smoke is pulled through the water chamber, where it is cooled before being inhaled into the smoker's lungs.

Hookahs Compared to Cigarettes

So what’s the big deal? The smoke produced from the tobacco is filtered through water before it enters the smoker’s lungs, this should remove all the harmful toxins right? Absolutely wrong. Compared to traditional cigarette smoke, hookah smoke has about 6 times more carbon monoxide and 46 times more tar. Hookah smoke still exposes you to all the all the harmful and dangerous chemicals you would find in a cigarette. You are also still at risk of contracting a variety of cancers, heart disease and lung disease. I don’t know about you but cancer is the last thing I want in my life right now. Also just a little FYI, carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer and you are voluntarily putting that into your body. Scary.

So you only smoke hookah every once and a while, it’s not that big of a deal. Wrong again. A typical session of hookah smoking is anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour. During that one session you are exposed to 100-200 times the volume of smoke in a typical cigarette. One bowl of hookah tobacco contains the same amount of nicotine as 70 cigarettes. That is crazy! That one session of hookah with a couple of friends could make up for your entire young-life of not smoking.
All in all people, hookah smoking is just as harmful as cigarettes. It harms your body, it harms your decisions and it harms your healthy future. Let’s stick together and avoid this dangerous activity. Your body and your medical bills will thank you later.