The changes to Michigan’s smoking laws have brought about the rise in popularity of smoking a hookah, a tobacco water pipe native to the Mediterranean and Muslim counties.
It’s becoming more and more popular, and many people who smoke this way think that they are enjoying a safer alternative to cigarettes.
But smoking tobacco this way may be more dangerous than its users think. The leisurely puffs can be dangerous, causing things such as carbon monoxide poisoning, said St. Mary’s Dr. James Cogbill Jr.
“Carbon monoxide comes from things burning, and part of smoking a hookah is a piece of charcoal that is typically lit and you breath in that gas,” said Cogbill. “Charcoal was not meant to be inhaled, so part of the gases being let off is carbon monoxide.”
It’s a common misconception that the water filtration system in a hookah removes the harmful chemicals. But many toxins, cancer-causing chemicals and other harmful substances such as carbon monoxide pass through.
“Short-term carbon monoxide poisoning can give you headaches, nausea, vomiting [and] difficulty walking,” warns Cogbill. “If it’s a large enough exposure, it can lead to coma or even death.”
Hookah lounges are popping up across Mid-Michigan, especially in college towns, after the state changed indoor smoking laws. Cogbill said an hour spent smoking a hookah exposes the user to as much smoke as 100 cigarettes.
“We have really seen an upturn in the number of people who have been coming in with hookah-related problems,” said Cogbill.
Hookah smoking is becoming more popular as a social activity because it doesn’t carry the same stigma as cigarettes. But experts say it can be even more dangerous.
“You’re exposing yourself to a much larger amount of toxic chemicals then you would with cigarette smoke,” said Cogbill.