LAS CRUCES – Smoking tobacco is an extremely dangerous activity that causes numerous health problems including heart disease, several respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. There is no safe way to smoke tobacco, including using a hookah. A hookah, also known as a narghile, shisha or hubble-bubble, is a waterpipe of Middle Eastern origin that is used to smoke sweet, often flavored, tobacco. The smoke is filtered through water in the base of the hookah’s pipe. Proponents of smoking tobacco say the smoke is safer because the smoke is filtered through water and the tobacco does not contain all the chemicals that are found in a cigarette. That is simply not true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization, smoke from a hookah contains many of the same harmful and carcinogenic components as cigarette smoke.
Some of the chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke are tar, carbon monoxide, and nicotine. There is no evidence to suggest that the smoke filtered through the water of a hookah pipe reduces the amount of chemicals that are inhaled. Hookah smoke is less irritating to the throat, but that only encourages people to inhale the smoke deeper into their lungs.
Smoking tobacco from a hookah can be even more dangerous that cigarettes in many cases because of the amount of smoke that is inhaled. A recent study from the National Cancer Institute found that hookah users spend approximately 45 minutes inhaling smoke in a single session, which can involve more than 100 instances of inhaling smoke. On average, cigarette smokers inhale 10 times while smoking. Each puff from a hookah also contains more than 10 times the amount of smoke than the average cigarette.
The bottom line is hookah smokers inhale about 100 times more of the harmful smoke than a cigarette smoker. That is not to say cigarettes are a safe alternative. Smoking tobacco in any form can lead to serious health problems and even death.
The best prevention of serious health risks associated with smoking is to stop using tobacco. The Department of Health works with communities, schools and organizations across the state to promote healthy, tobacco-free lifestyles and reduce tobacco-related illnesses.
The Department’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program is a comprehensive, evidence-based public health program aimed at reducing the health and economic burden caused by tobacco. People who want to quit using tobacco can call the Department’s toll-free, bilingual help line, 1-800-QUIT NOW from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.