Hookah Vs Cigarette: Which Do You Think Will Kill You Sooner?

Is Hookah dangerous? Well, of course it is! Should it be placed behind bars? Well, of course it should! Can we blame it for our deteriorating health? Yes, we can! Does it look cool? Yes, it does? Should we compare it with cigarettes? Think!

Hookah Vs Cigarette

Now that we have gotten one thing straight that hookah is quite dangerous and not at all as harmless as once thought, we turn our attention to the most heated debate when it comes to smoking Hookah; whether it is as harmful as a regular cigarette or not?

In a study funded by the University of Cincinnati, scientists have stated that they found no evidence which could imply that hookahs are safer than cigarettes, they reported that hookah tobacco and smoke contain lower levels of four toxic metals than cigarette tobacco and smoke. The study was presented at the 246th meeting of the American Chemical Society (the largest scientific coalition of the world).

It was part of the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, being held here this week.

Lead author of the study, Dr.Joseph Caruso, Ph.D., said regarding the study findings, “Any form of smoking is dangerous, and our studies on toxic metals in hookah smoke are taking the first steps toward the necessary animal and human studies that will establish a clearer picture of the relative dangers of hookah and cigarette smoking. It is very difficult to compare hookah smoking with cigarette smoking because they are done so differently.”

Dr. Joseph explained that hookahs use specially prepared tobacco, sometimes called shisha, which is essentially a moist, gooey mixture that may include molasses, honey, and some artificial flavors. Burning wood or charcoal heat the shisha, producing smoke that bubbles down through a container of water and into a long hose-like tube with a mouthpiece attached at the end through which smoke is inhaled.

Caruso and his team, are of the opinion that the lower levels of toxic metallic compounds arsenic, lead, cadmium, and chromium they found in hookah smoke were not because of the smoke that got filtered through water, contrary to popular belief. This myth has been busted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association, and other health organization, there bottomline being that, “Hookah is in no way or form safer than cigarettes”. It seems that the reason for hookahs having lower toxic metals than cigarettes might be due to the fact that shisha itself may contain lower levels of those metals since Caruso’s colleagues did not find any excess amounts of those metals in the hookah water.

Other notable differences in hookah compared to cigarette smoking, however, make it difficult to properly assess the exact effect of the lower levels of toxic metals in hookah smoke, and might even contradict previous findings and research on hookah smoking, according to Caruso who presented the research at the meeting.

Studies have shown, for instance, that a typical hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs. The World Health Organization estimates that an hour-long hookah session is equivalent to smoking 5 to 10 packs of cigarettes. However, many people who smoke shisha, smoke less often than cigarette smokers.

“All of these things make hookah smoking different from cigarette smoking, and it also makes it difficult to compare the two, which is partly the reason why there are so few studies on the topic.” said Saadawi.

Caruso and Saadawi studied unsmoked shisha, as well as shisha smoke, with a sensitive instrument called an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. They also removed the additives from the shisha and found little difference before and after, thus the tobacco is the likely source of the metals, they said. Whether the smoke went through the water in the hookah also didn’t affect the metal levels.

Health Suffers At The Expense Of Extensive Hookah Smoking Sessions

There is a common misconception regarding hookah that it is somehow safer than cigarettes, due to the fact that the smoke passes through water before being inhaled. Even though this is true, the water only removes a small portion of most of the chemicals and they pass through regardless of the fact.

Moreover, since most hookah sessions last for quite a long time and produce a lot of smoke, a person is exposed to more of these chemicals. A World Health Organization study has suggested that a one-hour session of smoking shisha is the equivalent of smoking as much as 100 cigarettes or more.

Hookah Fueled By the Infamous Nicotine Source – Tobacco

Hookah contains the same side effects as cigarette smoking due to the tobacco contained in it. Therefore, it causes lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic conditions.

Moreover, since hookah contains tobacco, it contains nicotine as well, which is why some people get addicted to it due to nicotine’s highly addictive properties. Carbon monoxide is present in the smoke inhaled from Hookah, at times in even greater concentration than the smoke inhaled from a cigarette.

Carbon monoxide is an analog of oxygen and competes with it to bind with red blood cells in systemic circulation hence making oxygen availability scarce for the body. Oxygen deficiency of the systemic circulation may, in turn, deprive the vital organs of the necessary oxygen hence leading to the permanent damage to those organs.

Extensive Hookah Puffs Offer Greater Exposure

Since hookah contains most of the chemicals contained in cigarettes, hookah smokers can get addicted to cigarettes as well.  Hookah also contains tar, although the toxicity of hookah tar is not as intoxicating as that of cigarettes, even though hookah smokers can inhale more toxic chemicals as hookah smokers can take longer drags than cigarette smokers.

Cigarette smokers inhale 500 to 600 ml of smoke approximately in the 20 puffs it takes to smoke a cigarette.  If these individuals smoke hookah, which can take up to 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the hookah, smokers inhale approximately 90,000 ml of smoke in the 200 or so puffs they take.

Are Hookah Smokers Aware Of The Risks?

Not only is there a lot of general misconception regarding hookah smoking, a lot of general consensuses is that hookahs are relatively safer than cigarettes. While it’s common knowledge that cigarettes cause cancer and are quite injurious to health, there are few pieces of evidence to show that hookahs are dangerous to health.

A 2009 survey investigated 235 hookah users’ knowledge about its dangers, in all Hookah bars that served hookah to its customers in downtown San Diego, California, and surrounding areas.

The average age of study participants was 22 years, out of which 57% were males, and 72% did not smoke cigarettes. White people and Asians are more inclined towards smoking a Hookah than any other group and are of the opinion that Hookah smoking is less harmful than smoking a cigarette.

This habit is prevalent amongst the males who are mainly in their late twenties and early thirties (26 – 35 years of age). Mint flavored was preferred by 23% of the Hookah smokers and was more popular than any other flavor in which Hookah tobacco was available. A staggering number, almost 60%, of the participants believed in the misconception that Hookah is less harmful than smoking a cigarette.

The awareness of the possible harms and risks of Hookah smoking, as well as the policy measures to check the unchartered spread of Hookah tobacco abuse, are essential. The education and awareness alone are not sufficient to do the job. It is imperative that policy backed management strategies are put into action.

As evident from the studies mentioned before the misconceptions about Hookah are widespread amongst people belonging to all walks of life regardless of the race and sex. Even in the case when the danger posed by Hookah smoke and harms to health are sufficiently evident to the smokers they persist in sticking with their Hookah smoking process. The first step towards curbing the abuse of Hookah smoke under a false safe image perceived by the society is to nullify its cool and socially acceptable stereotype of Hookah.

Hookah Smoking: Is It Safer Than Cigarette Smoking?

It is a well-established fact, keeping in mind the studies quoted earlier, that the harmful aspects of smoking a Hookah are equivalent to the ones which arise as a result of cigarette smoking. A new link between Hookah and cigarette smoking was unearthed three years ago, which associates the onset of cigarette smoking habit in the people who become habitual of smoking Hookah.

Samir Soneji, Ph.D., and co-authors carried out a longitudinal study on the U.S. populations specifically targeting the young adults and adolescents in order to assess the increasing trend of alternative tobacco product use e.g. Hookah and Shisha, published in JAMA Pediatrics. The objective of the study was to figure out the trend of non-smokers to switch towards cigarette smoking after they have become habitual of smoking Hookah.

Hookah Vs Cigarette: Which Do You Think Will Kill You Sooner?

The study reported a massive chunk of 39% new cigarette smokers who has switched after getting well acquainted with smoking a Hookah. The trend of initiation of cigarette smoking habit amongst the individuals who had never smoked water pipe, Hookah or Shisha was barely 19.9% which is a clear indication that Hookah smoking serves as a path towards more addictive habits such as chain smoking.

These results go on to show the real problem hookah smoking carries, which is often underlooked. Hookah smoking increases a person’s risk of smoking cigarettes, and ultimately developing an addiction to the habit, because it makes smoking so fulfilling and appealing with its different flavors.

Despite the fact that cigarette smoking is positively associated with prior Hookah smoking habit amongst the non-smokers the stance of Federal Institutions in terms of regulating via legislature the sale and promotion of Hookah Tobacco and Shisha Tobacco are still no clear. regulatory policies, as well as check and balance on Hookah tobacco, shisha tobacco, and all other modern derivatives, is the need of the hour.

Co Author : Fazeel Ashraf

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