Hookah: Like Smoking 40 Cigarettes & Kissing Everybody

This article was originally posted at RealClearScience.

What could be more relaxing than hanging out with a few buddies and smoking 40 cigarettes in a single night? Possibly smoking 40 joints, but most people don’t do that. On the other hand, 18% of high school seniors have reported engaging in behavior that is equivalent to smoking 10-40 cigarettes in a single sitting, and then kissing everybody as well.

A stunning Fox News report (embedded at the bottom of this post) by Marc Siegel, an NYU medical doctor, details the findings of a new study in the journal Pediatrics that found that nearly one-fifth of high school seniors have tried hookah. Males, citydwellers and wealthy students were the likeliest to partake.

Middle Eastern cultures have smoked hookah for centuries. A rather groovy-looking pipe is filled with a flavored tobacco, called shisha, which is burned and passed through a tank of water which supposedly filters the smoke. But it doesn’t. According to the National Institutes of Health, a single session of hookah smoking “delivers 1.7 times the nicotine, 6.5 times the carbon monoxide and 46.4 times the tar of a single cigarette.” In other words, this is one of the most toxic things you could do to your body in the span of about 60 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, hookah is linked to the same sort of diseases that afflict cigarette smokers, such as lung, oral, esophageal, stomach and pancreatic cancer.

This nasty habit, as Dr. Siegel indicates, is made worse by the fact that users often do not change the mouthpiece as they pass the inhaling device around for all to enjoy. Any disease transmitted by kissing — e.g., mononucleosis, HPV, strep throat, colds, influenza, etc. — can also be transmitted by sharing mouthpieces.

So, why is hookah becoming so popular? The tobacco is sweet and smells good, and people are under the very false impression that hookah is healthier than regular cigarettes. But, as just described above, it is actually many, many times worse. And, after your night out partying, you might just go home with a new infection, too.

You would be better off staying home and smoking pot.

Source: Palamar JJ, Zhou S, Sherman S, Weitzman M. “Hookah Use Among US High School Seniors.” Pediatrics. 7-Jul-2014. pii: peds.2014-0538. [Epub ahead of print]