Shisha smoking, also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube.
The tube ends in a mouthpiece from which the smoker inhales the smoke from the substances being burnt into their lungs.
The British Heart Foundation explains that shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than cigarette smoke.
Popular flavourings include apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, strawberry and cola, the BHF says.
However, wood, coal, or charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create the smoke because the fruit syrup or sugar does make the tobacco damp.
Despite the assorted ingredients used in preparing shisha, there are inherent dangers that shisha smoking poses to health.
Here are some of the dangers of smoking shisha pipe:
• Sharing mouth pieces puts you at risk of oral herpes, mouth and throat cancers.
• Generally, when you smoke shisha, you and anyone sitting near you are breathing in smoke which releases toxins, including carbon monoxide and heavy metals – reducing your body’s ability to carry oxygen around in your blood.
• Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
• It’s difficult to say exactly how much smoke or toxic substances you’re exposed to in a typical shisha session. People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than they smoke a cigarette, and in one puff of shisha you inhale the same amount of smoke as you’d get from a smoking a whole cigarette.
• The average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour and research has shown that in this time you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 cigarettes.
• Some people assume that shisha smoking is not addictive because the water used in the pipe can absorb nicotine. In reality, however, because only some of the nicotine is absorbed by the water, shisha smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause an addiction.
• But then, is herbal shisha safer? No it isn’t. Shisha, herbal or otherwise, usually contains tobacco. Fruit or herbal flavours do not mean the product is healthy. Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the shisha.
• Second hand smoke is also a worry. If you’re smoking with other people or in a public place and the shisha includes cigarette tobacco, it’s likely you’ll breathe in their second hand smoke too.
(Source: British Heart Foundation)