Hookah vs. Cigarettes

A new post in our series “Tobacco & Twenty-somethings”, by Stacy Song 

Reality television is my guiltiest pleasure. I know it probably lowers my IQ a few notches, but for some reason I just cannot get enough of it. Over the weekend, I decided to catch up on the newest season of  The Real World. In one of the episodes, there was a debate between two characters over whether smoking a cigarette is more dangerous than smoking a hookah. This argument starts when one of the cast members confidently says that smoking hookah is the equivalent to 1/77th of a cigarette. Obviously, this fact sounds flawed so another cast member decides to google some information. Most viewers just see this as a menial argument, however, it brings up a good point. After this episode, I decided to look up some facts for myself.

One study shows that smoking out of water pipes (hookah) is dangerous but dangerous in different ways than smoking cigarettes. It appears that smoking out of hookahs causes more inhalation of carbon monoxide, which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Hookah smokers also have a higher level of benzene than cigarette smokers, which is linked to leukemia. The CDC also states that “a typical 1-hour-long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.” Some people after hearing this argument (like the pro-hookah cast member of The Real World) might still argue that hookah smoke isn’t as dangers as cigarette smoke, however, the charcoal used to heat the tobacco also contains cancer-causing chemicals. And because so much smoke is inhaled when smoking from hookahs, “hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the toxins found in cigarette smoke.”

When most people think of tobacco, cigarettes come into mind. Due to this, it is really easy for people to forget that hookahs are dangerous as well. When I was in high school and under the drinking age, my friends and I would sometimes go to hookah bars. In the past, I never viewed smoking hookah as anything dangerous but saw cigarettes in a totally different way. People who frequent hookah bars tend to be younger and therefore, in my opinion, more impressionable. They look at hookah bars and see the different colors and patterns of hookahs and all the different flavors of shisha they can smoke. Also, growing up, I was always warned about cigarettes, never other forms of tobacco. Kids need to be better informed about the other forms of tobacco and its harms as well.

–Stacy Song

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