Wikimedia Commons
Hookah smoking is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, experts say.
Wikimedia Commons
Hookah smoking is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, experts say.
If smoking cigarettes is passé among today’s youth, Catholic or otherwise, it may be because they’ve found a more exotic way to get their nicotine fix.

A centuries-old tradition derived from Middle Eastern culture, hookah smoking is cropping up in bars and cafés nationwide, enticing young patrons to engage in a habit they erroneously believe to be safer than smoking cigarettes.

Hookahs – also known as a water pipes, shishas, narghiles or hubble bubbles – are becoming a rage among teenagers and 20-somethings. Nearly one-quarter of young people in North America has used a hookah. The water pipes appeal directly to their youthful audience with fun and fruity flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy and watermelon, or cocktail-inspired choices such as passion fruit mojito and tequila sunrise.

But researchers have found that hookah smoking is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes – and perhaps worse. Because of the social nature of hookah smoking – and its allure as hip and trendy – peer pressure is an even greater factor among youth. As is the case with cigarettes and other tobacco products, you must be 18 to smoke from a hookah; however, like other tobacco products, hookahs are finding their way into the hands of those younger than 18.  

Parents and youths should know this:

• Hookah smoke contains nicotine, which leads to addiction.

• Hookah-smoking sessions, which can last as long as 45 minutes, expose smokers to 36 times more tar than a cigarette, plus eight times more carbon monoxide and twice the nicotine.

• For hookah smokers, each inhalation on the water pipe may contain as much as 10 times the amount of smoke obtained from smoking an entire cigarette.

• Hookah smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing lung and oral cancers, as well as heart disease.

• The water filtration of hookah smoking does not diminish the harmful effects of the smoke.

• Hookah smokers share a mouthpiece, which increases the risk of transmitting diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and herpes.