What America does not understand about hookahs: the dangers of tobacco

As cigarettes and most conventional tobacco products are becoming increasingly stigmatized as the twenty-first century progresses, big tobacco companies have been urgently trying to find new ways to mass-market their products. Whereas cigarettes and chewing tobacco are slowly sinking into disgrace, flavored hookahs and vaporizer, “vape,” pens are gaining popularity.

The severe health effects of cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which are known to cause cancer and similar diseases, are well known. But many young adults today are being lulled in by the idea that the flavored tobacco or “shisha,” in hookahs is a safe alternative. However, the fruity flavors in the tobacco are simply a disguise to make it more appealing to users. Many users believe that since shisha can taste like a tropical fruit, that it cannot be unhealthy. However, the tobacco is simply soaked in fruity syrup and is just as dangerous as traditional forms of tobacco.

Another aspect that is appealing to users is the social aspect of smoking hookahs, often called “social smoking.” Hookahs are typically used in social gatherings, where a group of people will pass around one or more hoses attached to the hookah.

The social aspect of hookahs attracts youths
The social aspect of hookahs attracts youths

Hookah cafes have been popular in places such as India and other countries in the Middle East for centuries and have recently gained popularity in the United States. However, hookahs in the U.S. are more frequently used at house parties and other events instead of at designated cafes. An anonymous SLV hookah user explained why they enjoyed the social smoking aspect, saying, “I like hookahs because it can bring people together, nobody stands around in a circle and smokes cigarettes.”

Sources including U.S. News and Center for Disease Control show that the majority of hookah users are males of higher socioeconomic status within the ages from 18-30 years old. Hookahs are often believed to be “classier” and more healthy than other tobacco products because of the lack of the same stigma received by cigarettes. Hookahs are not largely frowned upon by the general public, and many misconceptions about them exist.

Recently, the anti tobacco campaign “Truth,” has aired several commercials on MTV using internet memes and social-media celebrities condemning tobacco usage, including hookahs, with the catchphrase “It’s a Trap!” when referring to the popular misconceptions believed by many young hookah and tobacco users.

The Truth Behind Hookahs: 

Myth: Since smoke from hookahs pass through water, all the harmful chemicals are filtered out.

Truth: Water does not filter out nicotine and other cancer-causing chemicals, and the smoke is just as harmful as cigarette smoke. Less than 5% of nicotine is filtered through the water.

Myth: Hookahs are not addictive.

Truth: Tobacco is tobacco. The fruity taste and smell of shisha is used to cover the fact that it is no different than tobacco in cigarettes, and provides people with a false sense of safety. Smoking shisha is just as addictive as any other form of tobacco.

Myth: Hookahs are safer than cigarettes.

Truth: Studies show that in a 60 minute session, hookah users are exposed to 100-200 times the volume of smoke in a single cigarette, essentially they consume almost a whole pack of cigarettes.

By: Michael Eshanur

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