The Myth of the Hookah

A co-worker approached me the other day asking: Do you know if Hookahs are good or bad for you? “Boy, Do I know? I’m probably the only one in this plant who knows the real truth about this demonic device”, I answered.

I’m glad he asked though because the new hookah trend seems to be going full force ahead in Canada and USA through what has become known as Hookah Lounges, and there’s not a lot publicly known about that bad habit.

Apart from smoking it to socialize and in get-togethers, smoking the hookah is fueled by a misconception that considers it a better alternative to smoking other tobacco products, simply for utilizing water, and sometimes fruit bowls like oranges, watermelons and apples, etc. This new habit is spreading fast and wide that some parents are even exposing their teenage children to it, either by having them prepare and smoke it, or just by second hand smoking.

The device works by burning charcoal that will then burn a tobacco mixture, as well as heat up the water. The smoke the charcoal generates helps move the tobacco through the water and hose and up to the mouthpiece.

Medical News Today

Smoking the hookah, a water pipe of sorts, is a common practice in the Middle East where you can order it in public cafes. Depending on what country you smoke it at, hookah is known by different names such as:

  • Shishah
  • Arghilah
  • Narghilah
  • Nafas
  • Ghalyan
  • Hoqqa

Whether you are in Beirut or Cairo, remember that smoking the hookah is bad for you anywhere you are. According to a recent scientific research, one draw is equal to smoking one cigarette. A hookah can go on for at least 30 minutes until tobacco and charcoal are replaced. That’s a lot of cigarettes in half an hour, so you do the math because these gatherings usually last from 2-4 hours. Therefore, hookah smokers are exposing themselves to more concentrated levels of the same harmful components of tobacco and carbon monoxide, which water doesn’t filter according to the same research.

Smoking the hookah potentially leads to complications with lung functions, an increased risk of heart conditions, cancer and infectious diseases. As for women in particular, they are exposed to premature skin aging; which could mean more makeup, or face lift procedures.

On the positive side, public health authorities have started to act, and they are doing something about the spread of this new trend. In Dearborn, Michigan for example, new regulations were put forth to curb the spread of Hookah Lounges, and similar measures are being reinforced in Canada.

So next time someone wonders why there are so many cases of cancer, and other respiratory diseases in Lebanon and other Arab states, you’ll know how to comment.

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