While there have been declines in teen cigarette use, other forms of tobacco (hookah, e-cigarettes) are gaining in popularity among teens. According to the nationwide Monitoring the Future study, 21 percent of high school seniors smoked a water pipe device, commonly known as a hookah, sometime in the last year.
Teens often may not know that hookah smoking can be as dangerous as cigarettes.
Here are some common myths about hookah smoking:
- Hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking.
Hookah smoke contains many of the same harmful toxins as cigarette smoke and has been associated with lung cancer and respiratory illnesses. According to the World Health Organization study, a hookah smoking session may expose the smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than occurs when smoking a cigarette. Compared with cigarette smokers, hookah smokers may take more frequent puffs, inhale deeper, and have longer smoking sessions, meaning that hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the same toxins found in cigarette smoke.
- Hookah smokers are exposed to less nicotine than cigarette smokers.
Hookah smokers may inhale larger amounts of smoke than cigarette smokers during a single smoking session resulting in considerably greater nicotine exposure. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. When smoking a hookah, very little nicotine is filtered out when the smoke passes through the water in the pipe.
- Secondhand smoke from hookahs is harmless.
Secondhand smoke from hookahs contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source used, commonly charcoal. A recent study found that carbon monoxide levels in hookah bars are higher than those measured in public places that allowed smoking.
- Hookah smoking is not as harmful to your health because the smoke gets filtered through water.
It’s not clear if the water filters out anything, and it is not proven to lower the health risks associated with tobacco.
- The fruit flavors used to flavor the tobacco detoxifies tobacco’s harmful chemicals.
Flavored tobacco masks the taste and smell of tobacco and makes it more appealing, especially to youth. All flavorings are simply just that—flavorings. They do not detoxify tobacco smoke.
- Hookah smoking is not addictive.
Similar to cigarettes, hookah smoking delivers the addictive drug nicotine. A number of studies suggest that hookah smoking may be just as addictive and perhaps even more harmful because of the way people smoke while using a waterpipe. As a result, hookah smokers inhale more often and for longer periods of time than typical cigarette smokers.
The myths about hookahs being a safe alternative to cigarettes have contributed to a harmful trend among youth. Now more than ever, we need to educate youth, health providers and policy makers about the dangers of hookah smoking to protect youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.