Hookah use also a health hazard: Experts

Bengaluru: While more and more of the city's young, including school children, are becoming addicted to smoking hookah following the increase in sheesha parlours across Bengaluru, their parents look the other way as they don't see it as harmful. But there is now research to suggest that it is a serious health hazard.

Researchers at the University of California have found that doing hookah for more than 30 minutes is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases,  just like the smoking of cigarettes. The study showed that a single session of hookah increased the heart rate by 16 beats per minute , blood pressure, and  arterial stiffness.

But the practice is considered so safe that when a group of students were caught in a school with a pot of hookah in their bag, their parents pleaded for them to be let off saying it was "only hookah,"  recalls Mr  Nagasimha G. Rao, director, Child Rights Trust.

"Many parents think smoking hookah is not injurious to health and some students believe it is an elitist thing to do and so take to it," he regrets. 

 Dr Sandeepa, Consultant Transplant Pulmonologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals,  warns that although many users think hookah is less harmful, it has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking. "The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can raise health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals. The tobacco in hookahs is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal and the smoke is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke," he explains.

Pointing out that an hour long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, he says smoking an average cigarette involves only 20. "The amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 millilitres (ml), compared to 500-600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette. Studies of tobacco-based sheesha and "herbal" sheesha show that smoke from both preparations contain carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks of smoking-related cancers, heart disease and lung disease," he adds.

Dr. Anilkumar Sapare, Consultant Paediatrics, Narayana Health City, reveals that doing hookah for long periods can  lead to oral and lung cancers and also reduce fertility. "Strict vigil is required by parents and school teachers to curb the practice," he underlines. 

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