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The Dangers of Hookah by Dr. Telford Layne

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Published: 23rd of April, 2023. Guyana, South America. GSA News. Guyana News.

Last updated: May 9, 2023 at 16:33 pm

Appearing cool but killing yourself…?

Can you imagine, me giving you a cup of poison to drink? The police will be called in, it may be classified as attempted murder. Can you imagine the gossip and social fallout as I am labeled a danger to society? But here you are posting photos every week smoking Hookah which is just like taking a cup of poison every time.

A while back, I was invited by some friends to a Sunday evening social gathering. While socializing, they bought one Hookah. They all were going down into it; each person had their flavor. About 30 minutes in, one of the females appeared dazed as if she was in a trance. I told her, “you do not look good, do you want to rest?” But she responded, “I am ok.”

About fifteen minutes later, she asked to sit in my vehicle. I knew something was now beyond bad. I told her to walk in front as I walked behind as backup support if anything should happen. While she was convincing me that I should lead the way, she collapsed to the ground. Knock out stone-cold.

They come in “Cherry Crush,” “Snappin’ Apple,” “Chocolate Treat,” “coffee, mint,” “crème caramel,” “black cherry marshmallow,” “buttered popcorn,” “cotton candy,” “Fruit Loops,” and over 7,700 other unique flavors.

Hookah smokers are at risk for many of the same illnesses as cigarette smokers such as oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and esophageal cancer. Hookah use is also associated with decreased lung function and heart disease, and it can have a negative effect on fertility. Psychologically, it triggers General Anxiety Disorder, Depressive symptoms, and Sensation Seeking.

Secondhand smoke from a hookah is also hazardous. If you are in the room with a lit hookah water pipe, you are breathing in cancer-causing toxins, just as with secondhand cigarette smoke.

Hookah smoking can also spread illness. Because it is usually smoked in a social setting, with several people sharing the same pipe and sometimes the same mouthpiece, colds and other infections, including oral herpes, can be easily passed along.

Hookah smoking is often mistaken as a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, primarily due to the sweet smell and taste of hookah tobacco, and the social aspect that usually leads to hookah smoking being only an occasional habit. But there’s no such thing as a healthy smoking option, and hookah smoking can be just as—if not more—dangerous as cigarette smoking.

If you must smoke, do cigarettes. 60 minutes of hookah is equal to smoking 40- 400 cigarettes. 1 hr of hookah exposes the smoker to 100-200x the amount of smoke inhaled from 1 cigarette. 30 minutes of smoking tobacco add to carbon monoxide levels in the blood affecting a level of 26% of the circulating hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin in our blood cells is what carries oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that stops that from happening. That’s why carbon monoxide alarms have been mandated in homes, and that’s why they save lives. Hookah is key to the problem: burning charcoal, placed above the tobacco to be smoked (typically with a piece of perforated aluminum foil in between) supplies the heat of combustion and is an important source of carbon monoxide, adding to what is already produced simply through burning tobacco. Smoking tobacco using a cigarette as the delivery device does produce carbon monoxide too, but not nearly as much.

It is a common misconception that smoking from a hookah removes nicotine and other toxins from tobacco. While water-cooled smoke is less harsh on delicate lung tissue, the toxicity of the smoke is unchanged and the cancer-causing chemicals present in the hookah tobacco are not filtered out by this process. Hookah smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals as traditional cigarette smoke, including carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, cadmium, nickel, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, lead, and polonium 210, a radioactive isotope.

Some hookah tobacco products claim they don’t contain tar, but that is misleading. No tobacco contains tar until it is burned, or in the case of hookah tobacco, heated. This difference leads some to believe that the toxicity of hookah tar may be less than that of cigarette tar, which is not the case. Additionally, the charcoal that is used to heat the tobacco contains carbon monoxide, metals, and other cancer-causing agents like polyaromatic hydrocarbons. This adds another level of danger to hookah smokers.

In the short term, hookah smoking raises blood pressure and heart rate, which may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. In the long term, hookah smoking can contribute to a variety of cancers, heart disease, and lung disease.

Dr. Telford Layne is a prominent Guyanese psychologist, family man, and author.

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