It is becoming all the rage among the younger generation in Western culture today, and has long been a popular social pastime in many Middle Eastern cultures. But the World Health Organization(WHO) now claims that smoking hookah, also known as shisha, for one hour is the equivalent of smoking 100 cigarettes, a claim that has no real basis in science.
Though it might not be beneficial per se, the health effects of smoking hookah have never really been studied in an objective, unbiased way. And since types of hookah tobacco vary in quality and content, as do the coals used to create smoke from this tobacco, it is difficult to truly ascertain how this popular new fad is affecting the lungs of the millions that now smoke it.
Even so, WHO has determined that hookah in general can be more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, despite the fact that hookah smoke passes through water where it is cooled and filtered prior to filling the lungs of smokers. And according to Professor Robert West, Director of Tobacco Studies at University College London, the smoke from tobacco itself, regardless of whether it comes from a cigarette or from hookah, can cause DNA damage, which in turn can lead to cancer.
“Smoke from tobacco contains a number of carcinogens which damage the DNA in cells,” he claims. “Just one damaged cell can divide and multiply uncontrollably into a large tumor. This is what causes lung cancer.”
But is smoking hookah really the same as smoking cigarettes, and is a single hookah smoking session really responsible for causing as much lung damage as 100 cigarettes? The evidence is truly inconclusive on this matter, as the two are very different things altogether. Cigarettes involve the literal burning of tobacco, as well as paper and various added chemicals, while hookah involves merely heating flavored tobacco, which evaporates the sugars and flavors and creates a different type of smoke.
Hardly an endorsement of smoking hookah, or cigarettes for that matter, the purpose of trying to clarify this issue is a matter of parsing fact from fiction in a world that often jumps on the bandwagon of whatever the health authorities declare to be true about the subject. And in the case of hookah, it appears as though health authorities are greatly overblowing its dangers, while remaining hypocritically silent about serious killers like artificial sweeteners, pharmaceutical drugs, processed foods, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), low-fat diets, and toxic chemicals and pesticides.
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