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Tales of Hookah: why is it the silent killer?

Hookah tobacco is addictive and precarious to one’s health as traditional cigarettes. The best thing one can do for their health is to be aware of the harmful effects of Hookah and keep all tobacco products at arm’s length.

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People who smoke hookah are exposed to many different types of cancer, including bladder cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, and oral cancer. (File)

By Dr. Sharvil Soni

In this day and age, smoking is an inclination for people of all ages. Cigarette smoking is considered the main form of tobacco consumption in many countries. However, “hookah”, an emerging trend, especially amongst the youth, has witnessed a significant increase in consumption on a global scale in the past few years. Hookah smoking, contemplated to have originated in India or Persia in the 1500s, has been deceived into being safer than smoking cigarettes. However, that is not the case.

Also known as a water pipe, hookah is a device that consists of several parts through which tobacco smoke is generally mixed with a fruity aroma. Hookahs come in different flavors such as apple, watermelon, mint, cappuccino, cherry, chocolate, coconut, etc. Mainly used in bars, cafes, and in one’s own home, people pull hookahs to enjoy with their group of friends without knowing the ill effects that they produce. Many people are unaware of the consequences that hookahs have. It can have the same effects as cigarettes do or even worse depending on the amount of hookah consumed. Hookah smoking includes a mouthpiece for one to smoke and this mouthpiece is shared by multiple people. Colds and infections, including oral herpes, ulcers, bacteria, or fungi can be swiftly passed from one person to another.

Hookahs have about the same proportionate quantity of nicotine as cigarettes and sooner or later, lead to tobacco addiction. It can get even more harmful than smoking a cigarette. A one-hour session of hookah has 200 puffs, meanwhile, a cigarette has 20 puffs. Some people use hookahs for fun and try to hold the inhalation longer. This is a common trend among teenagers and young adults. This leads to higher concentrations of toxic fumes being sucked into the lungs. These dramatic higher levels lead to severe negative health issues. Hookah users are more prone to infections and other medical conditions including lung and mouth cancer. Furthermore, because of the overlapping toxicity caused by hookah smoking, effects on the cardiovascular system are also evident. Like cigarette smoking, hookah use can also harm the pulmonary system. Hookah smokers, in any case, complain of symptoms such as cough, wheezing, sputum, and shortness of breath. Eminently, hookah use is correlated with metabolic syndrome development. Thus, hookah smokers had an exuberant incidence of hypertriglyceridemia and hyperglycemia, as well as hypertension and abdominal obesity.

Unfortunately, even among the population of pregnant females, the use of hookah is not diminishing due to the smokescreen of it being less harmful. Hookah exposure during pregnancy can result in a reduction in the weight of a newborn baby, increased heart rate, higher chances of miscarriage, respiratory problems, birth defects, and many other health risks to the fetus. Hookah smoking may even lead to decreased fertility among both men and women. Research said that sperm motility and sperm morphology were negatively impacted in men who smoked hookah regularly compared to men who did not smoke a hookah.

Another health study on hookah uses among the students indicated that it may damage adolescent brain development. It can also reduce the levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is crucial for cognition and behavior. A relatively recent review also reported terrible health alterations in adolescence, conjoined with behavioral changes like low attention and aggression. Hookah is usually consumed to relieve stress but there is found to be a link between hookah smoking and mental health variables, such as anxiety, depression, and addictive disorders, among the youth. Thus, hookah causes havoc with not only the physical health of the user but also their mental state.

People who smoke hookah are exposed to many different types of cancer, including bladder cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, and oral cancer. One notices a loss of breath often when performing physical tasks. Smoking hookah raises your blood pressure and your heart rate which escalates to heart attack and stroke. It even contributes to clogged arteries, heart diseases, and impaired lung function. If you’re in the room with a lit hookah water pipe, you’re breathing in hazardous toxins just as you would with second-hand cigarette smoke. Those consuming hookah along with the ones in proximity are unmasked to many conceivably dangerous toxicants.

Hookah tobacco is addictive and precarious to one’s health as traditional cigarettes. The best thing one can do for their health is to be aware of the harmful effects of Hookah and keep all tobacco products at arm’s length. If you are already consuming tobacco, which kills at a slow pace, and are looking to quit, there are plenty of resources and support systems available. A positive attitude, resilience, resistance to group pressure, and respect for one’s health and well-being can all contribute to putting this silent killer to blaring ruins.

(The author is Pulmonologist & Intensivist, Shalby Multispecialty Hospitals, Ahmedabad. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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