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Teen Trend of Smoking Hookah Tobacco is Not Healthy

by Nancy Braden, Jefferson County Public Health
comments open from August 30 until September 18

Hookah smoking lounges are opening in some Jefferson County communities that have not yet strengthened their smoke free laws, with the latest one opening just across the street from Wheat Ridge Middle School. Although state law prohibits the use of any form of tobacco, including hookah tobacco, for anyone under the age of 18, kids as young as 16-years old are encouraged to come in to some of these establishments, and are often enticed by the candy or fruit flavored tobacco and club-like atmosphere of these smoking lounges.

So, what exactly is “hookah”? A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. Many think that “smoking hookah” has no negative health effects. The truth might surprise some, especially parents who have allowed their children to participate in this fad.

Fact: Hookah smoking is NOT safer than cigarette smoking. According to an article by Dr. Lowell Dale, M.D. published by the Mayo Clinic, hookah smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and carcinogens. In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than cigarette smokers.

Fact: Although many teens and parents think what is inhaled is only steam, it is not. It is tobacco smoke. There is a common myth that smoking tobacco through a hookah filters the harmful toxins associated with smoking tobacco. It does not. Hookah tobacco contains the same cancer-causing chemicals found in other tobacco products.

Fact: Because smoking a hookah is a prolonged, social activity, a hookah smoker might inhale the smoke-equivalent of 100 cigarettes during a single, average, 45 minute session.

Fact: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that hookah smokers are at risk for the same kinds of diseases that are caused by cigarette smoking, including oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the esophagus, reduced lung function, and decreased fertility.

Fact: Secondhand hookah smoke may be more dangerous than cigarette smoke. It contains smoke not only from the tobacco but also from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah.

Fact: Sharing a hookah mouthpiece might contribute to the spread of colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.

Fact: According to The American Lung Association, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States.

Fact: According to the US Surgeon General, and based on years of scientifically sound, published research, there is no safe level of tobacco use or tobacco smoke exposure.

Though many hookah smokers already smoke cigarettes, hookah smoking for some can lead to nicotine addiction and, in turn, use of other nicotine products. Jefferson County Public Health urges parents to get the facts and be involved with the choices their teens are making when it comes to tobacco and hookah smoking.

For more information on how to help your teen make informed decisions, contact Jefferson County Public Health at 303-275-7555 or visit, The American Lung Association.

>> The Mayo Clinic's article on Hookah and smoking

>> The World Health Organizations document on Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking

>> The CDC's fact sheet on Hookahs

>> The American Lung Association's paper, "An Emerging Deadly Trend: Waterpipe Tobacco Use

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