Hooked to trouble

Hooked to trouble

Misleading Myth

They’re considered the perfect addition to any get-together – not only do they come in a medley of fun flavours, but can be shared by three or four people and last up to half an hour. And more importantly, many believe them to be a cleaner and safer alternative to smoking cigarettes! Which is definitely not true.

The logic behind this is simple. Firstly, the tobacco in a hookah is heated, not burnt, suggesting it releases less cancer-causing chemicals. Also, since the smoke is passed through a bowl of water at the base of the instrument before inhaling, it’s considered to be clean and filtered. But just because a hookah looks better and tastes sweeter than a cigarette doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer. Metrolife speaks to a few Bangaloreans to find out what they think of the matter.

Manu Joseph, a business management student, admits that many of his friends enjoy smoking hookahs. “One of the main reasons is that it’s not as hard as smoking a cigarette. The smoke from a hookah is much smoother,” he explains. He adds that there is a common perception amongst them that hookahs aren’t that harmful. “Because of the water at the base of the hookah, many people feel it’s safe to smoke it. I don’t think people are aware that it’s actually dangerous,” says Manu.

Aparajita, a law student, agrees with this view. Although she doesn’t smoke herself — and claims that she never will — many of her friends enjoy smoking the occasional hookah. “Some of my friends smoke them; they aren’t regular about it, but enjoy smoking one if they’re going out somewhere together. I don’t think they really know that it could be dangerous because if they knew it was harmful, they probably wouldn’t do it,” she reasons.

The fact remains, however, that hookahs are just as unhealthy as cigarettes. For starters, a person smoking a hookah tends to inhale a larger volume of smoke, especially since they would be smoking continuously for about half-an hour and the water at the base does nothing to filter out the nicotine and carcinogens, which make hookahs both addictive and dangerous. Dr Dayananda G, a physician, believes it’s high time that youngsters in the City are disabused of the notion that hookahs are safe to smoke.

“People believe it’s not harmful, but this isn’t true. The ill-effects of smoking are still present,” he says, adding, “cigarette manufacturers insert a filter into each cigarette, but this isn’t there in a hookah. And since the temperature of the smoke varies, the hazards are the same as in the case of the smoking.”

He also highlights another angle to the issue. “People who have access to certain illegal, intoxicating substances often add them to hookahs before smoking them, since it gives them a kick. In this sense, smoking hookah is actually a social danger as well,” he concludes.