Shisha / Hookah Is 200 Times More Harmful Than Cigarettes

Shisha smoking – also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube.

Shisha has become a trendy pursuit for youths, it is usually shared between friends and is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. But here’s the shocking truth – a single session of smoking shisha is the same as smoking 200 cigarettes, health expert warns.

Most shisha smokers are unaware of the health risks involved. Some don’t even realise that there’s tobacco involved and so they don’t regard shisha as smoking.”

Addressing the misconceptions about shisha smoking

Unlike cigarette smoking, which is always portrayed negatively in the media, the harmful effects of shisha smoking are not as well known. “Cigarette boxes carry mandatory health warnings but you don’t see similar warnings at shisha joints”.

For a start, shisha is often smoked in a social gathering, in the intimate ambience of a comfortable cafe. It has none of the negativity associated with cigarette smoking.

Also, shisha boasts natural fruit flavours such as apple, lemon, orange and melon. So those who are not in the know tend to associate shisha with being fruity and healthy. Some may even see it as a safer alternative to cigarettes.

How harmful is it?

But shisha smoking is far from benign.

Shisha smoke is often laced with carcinogens or cancer causing substances. Regular smoking of shisha may lead to cancer of the lungs, mouth, stomach and oesophagus. This is on top of health conditions like impaired pulmonary function, heart disease and reduced fertility.

According to recent research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that a smoker inhales half a litre of smoke per cigarette, while a shisha smoke can take in anything from just under a sixth of a litre to as much as a litre of smoke per inhalation.

Meanwhile, experts at the London-based Department of Health and the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre have found that one session of smoking shisha resulted in carbon monoxide levels spiking to at least four times more than the amount produced by one cigarette.

Sharing a shisha pipe might also expose you to infections such as herpes and tuberculosis. “That’s because the water pipe may be a breeding ground for bacteria”.

The perils of second-hand smoke

Even if you’re not smoking shisha, just sitting with your friends at the same table exposes you to dangerous second-hand smoke.

Breathing in this less-than-desirable smoke means that you face an increased risk of health conditions like:
  • Rhinosinusitis, an inflammation of the nose or sinuses
  • Asthma
  • Coughing and sore throat
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
So if you don’t smoke shisha, it may be better if you didn’t hang around a shisha lounge. And if you do smoke shisha, it may be time to quit.

- Credit: Jaclyn Lim/Health Xchange

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