Cigarette smoking is now banned in most restaurants and bars, but a new type of smoking (juice for your vape) is taking its place – hookah smoking. Hookah smoking is especially popular among teenagers who use a water pipe called a hookah to inhale flavored tobacco called shisha. This tobacco comes in a variety of flavors including chocolate, apple, peach, mint and bubble gum – to name a few. How common is hookah smoking among teens – and are they putting their health at risk?
Hookah Smoking among Teens: How Common Is It?
Researchers surveyed a random sampling of college students from eight institutions of higher learning in North Carolina. They asked the students about their history of smoking – as well as how often they used drugs or alcohol. Slightly over 40% of the students had smoked hookah at least once, and 17% said they inhaled from a hookah on a regular basis. Students who smoked hookah were also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke pot and use drugs. Many college students justify their hookah smoking habit by assuming they’re safer than cigarettes. Are they?
Is Hookah Smoking Safer Than Smoking Cigarettes?
Shisha tobacco may be slightly lower in nicotine – and hookah proponents argue that the water in the pipe filters out many of the toxins in tobacco. But hookah smokers inhale larger amounts of smoke because the smoke is cooled in the pipe before it enters their lungs, allowing a hookah smoker to take in more tobacco smoke with each inhalation. Combine this with the fact that a hookah session can last for an hour or more – and the amount of smoke a hookah smoker inhales is even greater. On the other hand, a hookah smoker may not “light up” as frequently as a cigarette smoker, which is a positive.
Even if you take in less nicotine with hookah smoking, which is still debatable, hookah tobacco contains other toxins such as heavy metals and carbon monoxide – and preliminary research shows that hookah smokers have the same risk of heart disease and cancer as cigarette smokers. There is no “good” tobacco smoke when it comes to the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The Bottom Line?
Hookah smoking isn’t a safer way to smoke. The only advantage to hookah smoking over cigarette smoking is people don’t smoke hookah as often – but from the results of this survey, too many teens are taking up this habit.