Hookah Pipes

So you think that smoking hookah pipes/ hubbly bubblies is nothing like “real smoking” think again! Read below and debunk all the myths!!

What is Hubbly Bubbly?

Hubbly Bubbly, also known as Shisha or Hookah is a traditional form of smoking that originated in India. It is very popular in the Middle East, but is growing in popularity in Europe, North America and even here in SA. The base substance is placed in the upper bowl. Either self burning coal or normal coal is ignited and used to burn the tobacco or molasses. Smoke is then drawn through a chamber that is filled with water and then inhaled. The water acts to cool the smoke and filter it to some extent.

Is the hubbly bubbly safe?

Unequivocally not!!

What does it contain?

Depending on what is smoked, the main ingredients are Tar, Nicotine and Carbon Monoxide. There are also heavy metals. PLEASE note that some of the labels have misleading Zero Tar ratings. Remember that you are actually inhaling a burning piece of charcoal or petroleum based substance with all its dangerous chemical breakdown products. Does the water not filter out all the harmful chemicals?The simple answer is no, but it does reduce them.

Compared to smoking cigarettes, which is worse?

It all depends on the amount consumed and the time.If you have a single 1hr session alone, the amount of smoke inhaled is up to 100X that of a normal cigarette. The amount of carbon monoxide is up to 4 times that of cigarette smokers. It’s not easily quantified because a lot depends on the depth of the drag. Also because its shared often, this makes the variability greater.

Is the sharing dangerous?

Yes. Sharing the mouthpiece can transmit Hepatitis, Herpes, Influenza, Epstein Barr, Cocksackie, CMV viruses. Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, Strep. Pneumonia, Strep. Pyogenes, Staph. Aureaus, very resistant and potentially life threatening bacteria, are also easily transmitted in this way.

What are the main concerns?

I believe the main concerns are that there are no warnings associated with hubbly bubbly.The legislated ban and restrictions on smoking does not seem to affect the “shisha bars”. The social taboo that has become associated with cigarettes is in fact completely the opposite for shisha. It is seen as a hip social activity. Parents are even sharing it with their kids! There seems to be a general denial that is it is just flavoured smoke.

What about second-hand smoke?

The social aspect results in increased levels of highly dangerous second-hand smoke. This the social nature of the shisha that often makes it worse than smoking.

What is the increase in health risk?

Lung and bladder cancers, impaired pulmonary functions, coronary heart disease, infertility, tobacco dependence. The risks are similar to that of cigarette smoking and this extends to pregnancy. Here are suggested actions by the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation:

1. Shisha should be subjected to the same regulations as cigarettes and other tobacco products.

2. Shisha should contain health warnings.

3. The restaurants should inform their clients of the actual contents of Shisha.

4. Media should be involved in creating awareness against the hazards of Shisha smoking.

5. Awareness sessions against the hazards of Shisha smoking and other substance abuses should be made a regular feature in all educational institutions.

6. Surveys should be conducted to assess the extent of the problem and its prevalence in our society.

7. Longitudinal studies should be conducted to assess the health implications of Shisha smoking.

Shisha smoking though a part of a cultural heritage is damaging the youth of our country. It is imperative to prevent our younger generation from indulging in a habit which will have detrimental effects not only on their health but also on the health of the country.

So the next time you consider lighting up the shisha for your children and their friends – think again!!

Ear,Nose and Throat Specialists