Over the last decade, more and more people are getting hooked with shisha smoking. Despite efforts to educate the public on the dangers of tobacco, shisha smokers continue to rise. Many of them, who are young adults and young professionals, continue to believe that among the tobacco products, shisha is less dangerous than cigarettes.
Shisha or water pipe smoking has not been widely studied. However, enough evidences on the health risks were already established. Like any other tobacco, shisha smoking can also cause incurable, irreversible and life-long diseases.
In the study conducted by Dr. Sedigheh-Sadat Tavafian (Department of Health Education, Faculty of Medical Science, Tarbiat Moddarres University, Tehran, Iran), Dr. Teamur Aghamolaei (Department of Health Services, School of Health) and Dr. Shahram Zare (Department of Social Medicine, Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, Bandar Abbas, Iran) on “Water Pipe Smoking and Health-Related Quality of Life: A Population-Based Study,” water pipe smokers had a substantially worse health condition than non-smokers. They also concluded that smoking water pipe posed a higher risk for poorer high-related quality of life and should therefore be of high priority for health planners.
Contrary to the popular belief of many shisha smokers, the water in the water pipe does not filter all the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. Although it may absorb some of the nicotine, shisha smokers still inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers inhale in one smoking session. In fact, the World Health Organization issued a public advisory in 2005 that one session of water pipe smoking could be as dangerous as smoking up to 100 cigarettes.
The Nicotine and Tobacco Research, devoted exclusively in the study of nicotine and tobacco, published in 2007 a study that measured the levels of cotinine. It is a chemical used to assess nicotine exposure in the urine of water pipe smokers. Although the authors cautioned that the amount of nicotine produced can vary depending on the design of the water pipe, type of tobacco used, burn temperature, and duration of use, the findings nevertheless are troubling. The researchers found that using a waterpipe every day produced cotinine levels that indicated a nicotine absorption rate equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
While nicotine is responsible for the addictive properties of shisha, high levels of toxic substances from shisha smoke are even more alarming. These toxic substances that can lead to numerous complications are tar and carbon monoxide. Tar, which is a dark sticky combination of hundreds of chemicals including poisons and cancer-causing substance, is responsible for causing cancers and bronchial disorders. Carbon monoxide on the other hand decreases the amount of oxygen in the body and is associated with the increased risk of heart disease.
Tobacco in any form, possess the same health risks. Whether it may be a smokeless tobacco, cigarette, cigar, bidis, or shisha, all these are associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, and cancer of the lungs, larynx, oral cavity and esophagus. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized that tobacco is the greatest cause of preventable death globally. And as published in the Global Health Risks of the World Health Organization, among the leading global risk for mortality in the world that affects all countries across in all income groups (high, middle and low), is tobacco use. It comes next to high blood pressure and second in rank, as shown in the graph and table below.
The graph shows the deaths attributed to 19 leading risks factors by country income level. (Published in Global Health Risks of the World Health Organization, 2004).
The table shows the 10 leading risk factor causes of death by income group. (Published in the Global Health Risks of the World Health Organization, 2004).
Due to the harmful effects of tobacco smoking, the use of deception and disguise by the makers and marketers of tobacco products seems to know no bounds, and the number of new products in the pipeline is escalating, according to the World Health Organization. WHO also added that products like cigarette ﬁlters, which claims ranging from an improved health to whiter teeth, smokeless tobacco products marketed with claims of purity and negligible harm and new high-technology products that bear little resemblance to conventional tobacco products. Also, the ancient products traditionally used in selected regions, such as water pipes, kreteks and bidis, are sweeping the world under the allure of their exotic appeal and illusions of relative safety.
And while these tobacco companies continue with its marketing campaign for a safer and less harmful smoke, shisha smokers will more likely continue to increase and young individuals will continue to believe that shisha is the safer alternative to cigarette smoking, unless of course additional research will be done for thorough understanding on the risks and health effects of shisha or water pipe smoking. But right now, consumption of tobacco in any form is far from being safe. There is no such thing as safe smoking. Protect yourself. Save your life!