It arose hundreds of years ago in India, consisting of nothing more than a coconut base and tube. As it is today, it was used to smoke, but opium and hashish rather than tobacco. Eventually it crossed India’s borders, stretching across the Middle East to Europe and North America. Currently, it is a rising trend among urbanites searching for an alternative to the shunned cigarette. It is the hookah, the latest in tobacco misconceptions.
Hookah users believe that they have found an acceptable alternative to smoking. A cigarette, after all, is frowned upon, banned from internal use in many cities. Non-smokers eye smokers with disdain and pity. But a hookah, that is okay. A hookah involves an exotic lounge or café with heavy draperies, enveloping cushions and Eastern ambience. A hookah is the epitome of style and, evidently, better health. The inability to tote a hookah with you, as you could a carton of cigarettes, makes it less available and thus less addictive. The water that the smoke bubbles through renders the toxins all but harmless. You are smoking, yes, but not to the degree that you would be if you were pressing a cigarette or cigar to your lips.
If only that were true.
The only safe hookahs lack tobacco. Those with the drug are just as addictive as the conventional mode of smoking. In fact, they may be more so. An average cigarette lasts for five minutes. An average hookah session lasts for 45. In that time, you could inhale as much smoke as you would from 100 cigarettes. And despite the water, the toxins are just as . . . toxic. Plus you add on top of the regular risks, the increased likelihood of spreading diseases, via a shared mouthpiece. You inhale, pass the hookah and offer your friend an opportunity to contract hepatitis C, TB, herpes and respiratory illnesses. So much for the safer tobacco fix.
No matter how you ingest it – hookah, cigarette, chew – tobacco is still tobacco and carries with it a mass of health risks. Your best bet is to avoid it. If you want the cigarette experience, try candy cigarettes. If you want chew’s satisfaction, try gum. If you want a hookah, stick with the herbal, non-tobacco inhalations. Just stay away from tobacco, because tobacco is tobacco is tobacco.
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