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Prevention Presents: The Hazards of Hookah

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The Hazards of Hookah
Donna Bacon, M.Ed., LSC
Prevention Education Specialist

Information about the dangers of cigarettes is everywhere now.  As smoking bans spread across the country, many people are looking for alternatives to cigarettes that may be healthier options.  As you may have read in Ashley Rodebaugh’s excellent column, popular E-cigarettes and “vaping” are certainly not a healthier choice since they deliver addictive nicotine as well as a host of other toxic chemicals that permeate cells and remain in the body. Another popular form of tobacco consumption that is being touted as “safer” is hookah smoking. 

A hookah is a pipe that uses charcoal to heat flavored tobacco and create a vapor that is passed through water, then inhaled through one or more mouthpieces.  Hookah sessions often last between 30 and 60 minutes.  Many hookah users claim that toxins from the smoke are filtered into the water and not inhaled at all, making it “safer”.  While this explanation is well-known, it is absolutely false. According to the CDC, hookah users inhale roughly 90,000 milliliters of smoke during a session (cigarette users inhale 500 to 600ml of smoke per cigarette).  Do the math and that equals over 150 cigarettes in an hour long session!  Not only does this smoke contain high amounts of nicotine and carcinogens, it also contains heavy metals and carbon monoxide created by burning the charcoal.  As you consider the lung and cell damage from this influx of chemicals, ponder also the germs and bacteria transferred between people sharing the mouthpieces. 

Google “hookah smoking” and the images show lounges of comfy leather couches piled with young people enjoying themselves in a haze of fruit-flavored smoke. There is a romantic, Arabian Nights atmosphere surrounding hookah smoking which is currently appealing to many of our young people.  Hookah bars attract and cater to a younger crowd than typical bars. Even when they don’t participate, people who just “hang out” at a hookah bar are still consuming the equivalent of about 10 cigarettes through second-hand smoke. Also troubling, teens are eight times more likely to experiment with cigarettes if they have ever used a hookah pipe.

Researchers tell us that smoking one cigarette creates enough damage in the body to shorten a smoker’s life span by 10 minutes.  How about a hypothetical math problem?

1 60-minute hookah session = 90,000 ml smoke = 150 cigarettes 

10 minutes per cigarette X 150 cigarettes = 1,500 minutes = One Day, 1 hour

Hookahs are just another way to lure our young people into thinking that smoking tobacco can be a harmless pastime.  Talk to your kids (and anyone else you can find) about the dangers of smoking and the mega-doses of dangers delivered by hookahs. 





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Lessons in Listening
By Cheryl Thompson, LPCC
Clinical Therapist II



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