Smoking Shisha: How bad is it for you?

22nd August 2017
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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.

What is in a shisha pipe?

Shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than cigarette smoke. Popular flavourings include apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, strawberry and cola. Wood, coal, or charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create the smoke because the fruit syrup or sugar makes the tobacco damp.

When you smoke shisha, you and anyone sitting near you are breathing in smoke which releases  toxins including carbon monoxide and heavy metals –reducing your body’s ability to carry oxygen around in your blood.

Smoking water pipes can be more harmful than cigarettes, world health experts have warned.

A single puff from a water pipe nearly equals the volume of smoke inhaled from an entire cigarette, while one session of “shisha” can equal smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes in one go, a conference has been told.

Moreover, smoke from charcoal used to heat the tobacco contains toxins.

Smoking the water pipe – variously known as a hubbly-bubbly, hookah, shisha or nargileh – has long been popular in the Middle East and North Africa but has a growing fan base elsewhere.

The water pipe’s popularisation has become a major worry for anti-tobacco campaigners as it is often overlooked by regulators. Additionally, aromatic flavourings added to the tobacco appeal to younger smokers.

“A single puff from a water pipe is nearly equal to the volume of smoke inhaled from an entire cigarette,” said the The Tobacco Atlas, which was launched at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi.

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World Health Organisation tobacco expert Edouard Tursan d’Espaignet said “one session of shisha can be equal to smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes in one go, which can be very dangerous”.

Gemma Vestal of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative says although shishas have previously been the domain of older males, “younger people between 18- and 24-years-old living in cities and educated” are increasingly smoking them.

Ghazi Zaatari, chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the American University of Beirut, says aromatic flavourings are giving younger smokers a “smoother and more tolerated” alternative to the taste of traditional tobacco.

How harmful is shisha smoking?

Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.

It’s difficult to say exactly how much smoke or toxic substances you’re exposed to in a typical shisha session.People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than they smoke a cigarette, and in one puff of shisha you inhale the same amount of smoke as you’d get from a smoking a whole cigarette.

The average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour and research has shown that in this time you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 cigarettes.

Some people mistakenly think that shisha smoking is not addictive because the water used in the pipe can absorb nicotine. In reality, because only some of the nicotine is absorbed by the water, shisha smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause an addiction.

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