Facebook Pixel

Buzz Kill! Smoking Water Pipes Not Safer Than Cigarettes

Rate This
water pipes are a buzz kill, no safer than cigarettes Yang Jun/PhotoSpin

Given the well-known health risks, Josh, a 22-year-old University of California-San Diego student would never consider puffing away on a cigarette. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t indulge in tobacco smoking. Like a growing number of young people around the country, Josh gets his buzz from a water pipe, commonly called a hookah.

A hookah, sometimes called a shisha, is a tall water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco through a hose and mouthpiece. It's a method that’s been used for centuries in the Middle East.

In the last decade, water pipes have gained global acceptance and its use among teens and young adults is on the rise in the United States, Canada, Southeast Asia and Europe, even as cigarette smoking is decreasing among this age group, numerous studies show.

The American Lung Association (ALA) is one of many health organizations that considers the popularity of hookah use a “growing public threat,” especially among urban youth and college students with easy access to hookah bars, cafes and restaurants.

Researchers and public health advocates believe hookah use is skyrocketing for a number of reasons. For starters, the recent proliferation of water pipe establishments creates an acceptable social environment for groups to smoke together.

Water pipe tobacco is also less expensive than cigarettes because it is largely unregulated. Local laws governing hookah use vary dramatically, so in some places it’s widely available to teens too young to purchase other tobacco products. And hookah tobacco may contain fruity flavorings and deliver a “smoother” smoke that appeals to teens and young adults.

But perhaps the most important reason water pipes have gained in popularity is that many young people wrongly believe that it is less harmful to their health than cigarette smoking, says Peyton Jacob III, Ph.D., a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) research chemist at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

Jacob, along with renowned UCSF tobacco researcher Dr. Neal Benowitz and other colleagues, recently published data showing hookah users are getting very high exposure to some pretty dangerous toxic substances.

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I find this very interesting, I mean people have been using this for awhile now but it's just been notice now. I don't know whether to believe it or not. But nice article though and informative as well. - Larry Starr Sarasota

June 3, 2013 - 10:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

Strange to think that after so many centuries of use, the
problem is just being noticed now.

May 25, 2013 - 5:54am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Stop Smoking

Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!