It may look cool to some people, but don’t be fooled: Using a hookah water pipe to inhale tobacco is just as dangerous to your health as lighting up a cigarette. In fact, a recent analysis found that just one hourlong hookah session involves inhaling more than 100 times the volume of smoke as from a single cigarette.
What’s more, hookah pipes are significant sources of carbon monoxide exposure: A study by the American University of Beirut in Lebanon has found one session generates 35 times more carbon monoxide than a single cigarette. And secondhand emissions from a hookah session were about the same as you would find from 10 cigarette smokers in the same space.
Hookahs feature burning charcoal briquettes separated from the tobacco by perforated metal that allows heated air through. The heated smoke passes through stems that are often immersed in cold water holding mint leaves or fruit before being inhaled.
Hookahs have been around for ages, but the American Heart Association says they are becoming more popular among young people in Europe and North America. Hookah lounges and cafes are springing up around the country, especially in college towns, as young people are drawn to the social aspects of the hookah.
Given the allure of the hookahs, and especially since they’re being marketed with candy and fruit flavors, health officials are ramping up efforts to raise awareness of the harmful effects of using a hookah. These risks including an increased chance of arterial disease and high blood pressure.
The message: You may feel exotic hanging out with friends at a hookah lounge, but the health dangers are very much real-world.