Hooked to Hookah?

Wikipedia defines hookah as, “a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) instrument for smoking tobacco in which the smoke is cooled and filtered by passing through water. Originally from India, hookah has gained popularity, especially in the Middle East and is gaining popularity in North America, Europe, Australia and Brazil.”

Origins :

The exact date is not known. But it is believed that, following the European introduction of tobacco in India, Hakim Abul Fateh Gilani, a Persian physician at mughal Akbar’s court, raised his concerns after smoking tobacco became popular among Indian noblement. He subsequently made a system which allowed smoking through a pipe after it was passed through water and ‘purified’. He also encouraged Akbar to smoke. Soon, smoking hookah became a common practice in India.

Hookah was tremendously popular in the Mughal era. The hookah since became less popular. However, it has once again gained the attention of people with the rising number of Hookah cafes everywhere in the country. And now more and more  youngsters are getting drawn towards it.

There may be huge differences in the urban and rural population, but the thing that is common between them is – hookah. It is smoked in many villages and is now becoming popular amongst the youth in cities with the rise of clubs, bars and coffee shops offering a wide variety of hookahs, even non-tobacco ones. Smoking hookah in cities is considered rather fashionable. Smoking a hookah is also considered  a socializing practice.

Many youngsters believe that this water pipe used to inhale flavored tobacco is harmless or safer than cigarettes.

Is it really harmless?

It is said that hookah smoking is different from smoking a cigarette because the tobacco gets filtered in water. Many people, who don’t smoke otherwise, think it is a safer option. They think it’s not dangerous because it’s just flavored smoke.

However, recent studies say that hookah smokers actually inhale more nicotine than the cigarette smokers because of the massive amount of smoke they inhale. This smoke embodies toxic compounds including carbon monoxide. A study by the American Lung Association said that the nicotine levels in a hookah smoker’s blood  increases up to 250% after one 40-45 minutes of smoking session. A recent World Health Organization advisory said that a typical one-hour hookah session exposes the user to 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.

Smoking from a hookah is as dangerous as smoking a cigarette. Hookah being safe is a myth. Tobacco in any form is bad for the lungs, even if it is passed through water. Carbon monoxide and nicotine are not soluble in water. Smoking, flavored or non-flavored is injurious.

Hookah smoking, like cigarettes, increases the risk of oral cancer, asthma, lung cancer, heart and blood vessel diseases. Hookah smokers are, in fact, seven times more likely than non-smokers to show the signs of gum disease and oral-cancer.

So, puff up on a hookah if you want, but don’t be ignorant about it. Be aware of the risk involved.

Lipi Bharadwaj

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/netio/4681575874/]