WHAT THE HOOKAH?

Have you heard of a hookah before?  What about shisha, goza, hubble-bubble or Narghile? All of these describe a water pipe where tobacco smoke is passed through water before being inhaled.  Smoking hookah originated in Asia and the Middle East hundreds of years ago. The traditions have slowly made their way to America.

Wait, you said hookahs use tobacco?

Although the number of teens and adults who use cigarettes are decreasing, overall tobacco use remains steady.  Federal regulations prohibit adding flavors to cigarettes, but those regulations do not apply to other tobacco products, including hookahs.  Teens in high school and middle school are more likely to use flavored tobacco rather than traditional, non-flavored tobacco products.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently more teen hookah smokers than cigarette smokers.

I heard hookah smoke is filtered through water.  Doesn’t that make it safer?

It is true that the tobacco smoke in a hookah is passed through water before being inhaled by the user.  However, that does not make it any safer than cigarette smoke.  The water helps to cool the smoke, allowing the user to inhale the carcinogenic chemicals deeper into their lungs.  Many other myths surrounding hookah use exist in teen social circles.  The bottom line is that hookah smoke still contains the addictive chemical nicotine, as well as many of the other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.

The average cigarette user takes about 20 puffs per cigarette.  The average hookah user may take 200 puffs.  According to the World Health Organization, this difference means that during the average hookah smoking session, the user would have inhaled 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke of a single, regular cigarette.  Remember that just like a cigarette, hookah tobacco is also burned which releases the same 4,000 chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke.

What should I do now?

Talk to your teen about the dangers of tobacco use.  Remind them that other forms of tobacco are just as dangerous.  Highlight the importance of making healthy decisions and help them manage the stress they may be feeling.  Most teens that turn to addictive substances do so to help manage stress.  Help them find positive methods for handling the challenges they face.  If your teen is already using hookah, quitting can be just as hard as quitting cigarettes, but there is help available.  Your local health department, child’s school, or local chapter of the American Lung Association may have tobacco cessation resources.  The CDC and other online outlets can provide additional assistance as well.

Sources:

World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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