A new tobacco trend on the rise
The use of cigarettes continues to decline in the United States, but a new tobacco trend is gaining in popularity, primarily among teens and young adults.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that the number of high school students using hookahs increased from 4.1 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2015. Hookah use among middle school students also climbed from 1 to 2 percent during this time period.
A hookah, according to the American Lung Association, is “a water pipe used to pass charcoal-heated air through a tobacco mixture and ultimately through a water-filled chamber.” Smokers inhale water-filtered smoke through a hose and mouthpiece attached to the pipe.
“One factor contributing to a rise in hookah use could be a lack of education about the dangers it poses,” says Dr. Axel Joob, a thoracic surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Hookah smokers may not realize that they are still inhaling a large amount of nicotine, likely even more than they would if they were smoking a cigarette.”
Hookah is generally associated with flavored tobacco mixtures, sometimes called shisha, and is often smoked in groups with smokers sharing the mouthpiece. This combination, when paired with an absence of education, can make this type of smoking seem less dangerous than it really is.
- Smoking tobacco through a water pipe still results in exposure to nicotine, the highly addictive drug found in cigarettes.
- Hookah smokers can actually be exposed to more smoke and nicotine than cigarette smokers, as hookah smoking sessions are often longer than it would take to smoke a cigarette and less than five percent of the nicotine is filtered out through the water in the pipe.
- Hookah smoking appears to be associated with lung, bladder and oral cancers, respiratory disease, clogged arteries, heart disease and low birth weight in babies.
- Using a shared mouthpiece when smoking hookah could leave you vulnerable to acquiring infections from others.
- Even if you smoke a flavored, non-tobacco product, the smoke can still contain carbon monoxide and other harmful substances that often lead to health issues.
“The main issue with all of these products is the exposure to the addictive effects of nicotine,” adds Dr. Joob. “People are largely aware of the health risks of tobacco, and smoking is less common than in the past and often discouraged. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself just because the product has changed. The risks are still there, and we should work to educate the public, especially young people, about the harm it can do to your body.”
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