Since its development over 500 years ago in India, hookah has become a worldwide smoking phenomenon.
Hookahs are readily available over the Internet, allowing young-adults and adults alike to purchase these strangely shaped smoking devices in droves. The trend has also spread to bars and restaurants, which allow customers to smoke hookah while also enjoying their favorite meals.
Often thought to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, studies have recently shown that it might be exactly the opposite.Composed of a glass base, a metal pipe, a brightly colored hose, a bowl and mouthpiece, the hookah allows from one to several people to smoke at one time. Often seen at parties, hookah mouthpieces may be passed from person to person.
According to The Hookah Manual, a project done by Zach Tomaszewski, the proprietor of SnarkDreams Shisha Exports, the base of the hookah may be filled with anything from water to alcohol and is filled to no more than one inch from the bottom of the pipe when the hookah is assembled.
The bowl is attached at the top of the pipe where the flavored hookah tobacco is placed. Aluminum foil with holes poked in it covers the tobacco to create a seal. On top of the foil, a self-lighting, smokeless coal is placed using tongs. Once assembled, smokers inhale the smoke through the hoses. In the past three to four years, the United States has seen a significant increase in the amount of hookah smokers. Hookah bars have been popping up in cities, towns and campuses across the United States. SheSha is Blacksburg's own hookah bar, as well as a place where people can go and relax and eat while smoking hookah. Megan Birney, SheSha employee and Virginia Tech 2005 alumna, believes that hookah is so popular because it's a "novelty, it's different."
"It's not an everyday activity," she said. Recent research gives credence to Birney's statement. As studies continue, a consistent - albeit unsurprising - theme emerges: Smoking hookah is in fact not good for you. "Anytime a human lights anything on fire and puts it in their mouth, it's bad," said Jon Fritsch, of Schiffert Health Center's office of health education.A 2005 article, "The Latest on Hookahs: What You Don't Know Can Kill You" by Kamlesh Asotra,, describes harmful effects of smoking hookah. The moist tobacco is about "30 percent crude, cut tobacco," she said. In a study on chemicals found in hookah smoke versus cigarette smoke by A. Shih-adeh and R. Saleh in 2005, it was found that in one gram of hookah tobacco, there are 802 mg of tar, 2.96 mg of nicotine and 143 mg of carbon monoxide.
"There is strong evidence that the CO to nicotine ratio in hookah smoke is 50:1, and that for a cigarette smoke is 16:1," the study read.
In another study done at the RIA Reference Laboratory in Lebanon by C. Macaron, Z. Macaron, M.T. Maalouf, N. Macaron, and A. Moore in 1997, it was found that "in a single smoking session using 20 grams of hookah tobacco, the hookah smoker is exposed to several-fold greater quantities of the addictive stimulant nicotine for up to 45 to 60 minutes. That is the equivalent to chain-smoking 15 cigarettes."Fritsch believes that smoking hookah has become a "public health problem." Smoking hookah "stresses lungs and makes it easier to get infections.""People's attitude about it is dangerous," Fritsch said.
He continued on to say that people who weekend-smoke are practicing to be daily smokers. "People start smoking hookah and end up smoking other products," he said. "The problem is nicotine."The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention list the health effects of smoking hookah on their Web site. Some of these effects include that "a typical 1-hour long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled with a single cigar-ette."
Against some ideas that hookah smoking is less harmful then smoking a cigarette, the DHHS highlights from Barry Knishkowy's and Yona Amitai's article on water-pipe smoking that "while many hookah smokers may consider this practice less harmful than smoking cigarettes, water pipe smoking delivers the addicting drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke."Jon Fritsch recommends to hookah smokers that they should "stop smoking hookah. There are a lot of health things they can be doing. If they don't start smoking, they will never have to worry and their lives will be drastically different."