A new coffee shop opened up near where I live, and they serve more than lattes and peppermint tea. When you walk by, you can see tables outside with people puffing on hookahs. This whole hookah bar/parlor scene has found its way into American culture, and its popularity raises an important question. Is it safe?
When you smoke from a hookah, you inhale flavored tobacco from a hose that is attached to an ornate pipe, which is usually made out of glass or clay. There's water in the bottom, which filters the smoke leading people to believe hookahs are safer than smoking cigarettes, but they're terribly mistaken.
The problem is that hookah users tend to inhale far more smoke than cigarette smokers. More smoke means higher levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other nasty chemicals. In a study published by the World Health Organization, they found that an average cigarette smoker took 8 to 12 puffs, and inhaled 0.5 to 0.6 liters of smoke over five to seven minutes. A hookah smoker may take anywhere from 20 to 200 puffs in one night, and each puff equals about one liter of smoke each. That means one hookah smoking session could equate to smoking 40 to 400 cigarettes. Yikes!
Here's the deal. Smoking flavored tobacco from a hookah is not any healthier than smoking regular cigarettes, and could actually be worse since you're inhaling more smoke, nicotine, and other chemicals. So don't get hooked on the hookah scene.