Can Hookah Pipes be as Harmful as Cigarettes? (Part 2)


In my previous blog, I described what a hookah pipe is, how it functions, why they're becoming so popular, and the effect the tobacco used has on people.  In this blog I will continue to talk about water pipes but I will explain why they are bad for you, and as many people are unaware, the effects of smoking hookah can be worse and more detrimental than cigarettes.


A study done at the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma center, to test whether the health risks with hookah pipes were higher than those of cigarettes, "found that water-pipe smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, nor is it likely to be an effective harm-reduction strategy."  The experiment compared men and women who had smoked 11 cigarettes a day or 3 hookah pipe sessions.  The study "found that the participants inhaled acrylamide (linked with damage to the nervous system), acrolein (which can irritate the eye, throat and nose), benzene, carbon monoxide and naphthalene (which can damage red blood cells) when they smoked hookah. Levels of benzene byproduct were doubled and breath levels of carbon monoxide were more than doubled after the participants smoked hookah, compared with smoking cigarettes. Researchers did find that nicotine intake was lower among the hookah-smokers than the cigarette smokers." 


Although the nicotine intake was lower in hookah smokers than in cigarette smokers, the other substances must be accounted for.  Most people who smoke hookah are between the ages of 18 and 24 and most cigarette smokers are between 22 and 44.  


Also, because hookah pipes allow low levels of nicotine to be inhaled, the amount of smoke taken in by smokers is far greater.  This can be dangerous because more smoke means that more toxins and chemicals, such are carbon monoxide are taken in. Another important difference between smoking cigarettes and smoking hookah pipes is that hookah pipes do not have filters, which does not help with all the extra metals and other toxins that are in the tobacco and pipe itself.


One of the biggest problems with hookah is how unaware people are of its negative side-effects and how easily they can fall into the trap.  Yes, it is true that hookah is a group activity and is something to easily socialize over.  However, this can be a major issue.  It is sometimes easy to forget how long you've been doing something if you're enjoying yourself and in good company.  The longer time that is spent with a water pipe, the more puffs are inhaled.  An average hour long session with a water pipe is around 200 puffs, vs. the 20 puffs of a cigarette.  In this hour, it is approximated as an intake of smoke measuring "90,000 milliliters (ml), compared with 500-600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette"  The fruity flavors of the hookah also contribute to a distraction.  Because hookah doesn't actually taste bad, as cigarettes are commonly known to,  it is possible that people feel more comfortable smoking hookah for longer periods of time.  In addition, because hookah is usually done in groups, there is a lot of passing around.  Although it is now common for many hookah bars to pass around plastic covers for the pipe, many places are a place for mouth germs to come crawling in.


It is not uncommon for many people to own hookah pipes, or to be smoking out on the college green on a nice day.  However, people must not forget that as enjoyable of an experience smoking hookah might be, the physical health effects are not something to be taken lightly.



I agree that any kind of smoking is not good for you but I feel like the study you talked about exaggerated the hookah vs cigarettes comparison. In the study it compared 11 cigs to 3 daily hookah sessions. Now think how often do people REALLY use a hookah with friends. I know a few people that have one and they use it maybe 1-2 a week with friends. I have never known anyone to even be able to get together 3 times a day with people to have a hookah session. The chemical intake is obviously going to be similar to cigarettes if you use it that often but I have never met anyone that even comes close to that. As compared to cigarettes which are often used multiple times daily. As an alternative to both I would suggest a hookah pen ( because you can get them without nicotine so you don't get addicted and in my opinion is a lot less commitment pressure than a full blown hookah. You can just pass on using it if you are with friends and they won't notice if you aren't using it because they will be. Moderation is key. But so is not smoking all together ;)

I can understand where you're coming from, and I do agree that it is uncommon for most people to smoke this much hookah a day. It is definitely easier to smoke closer to 11 cigarettes a day than it is to smoke hookah three times a day. This graph shows that as of 2009, the average smoker smokes less than a pack a day. But still 31% smoke a pack a day. The biggest difference that still needs to be taken into account, however, is that hookah sessions generally last than cigarettes smokes do. Most cigarettes smokers only smoke for a couple minutes between activities, such as while driving. Because hookah sessions last so much longer, they are considered to give off more toxins. Also, the problem with hookah pens is that they can sometimes be used to smoke other things based on the build. This website talks about how many kids and teenagers are taking hookah pens to school and smoking between classes. It has been known that many people are even sneaking marijuana into the hookah pen.

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