Everyone seems to be smoking this pretty little pipe, but do they have any idea of the health risks? Shisha, also known as "hookah smoking," has fast become very popular in the UK, especially in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Your usual shisha bar will be decked out with soft cushions, low stools and soothing Arabian music to create an inviting atmosphere. For many, this makes it the perfect way to relax and unwind with friends after a long day at work.
In the same way that some people will enjoy a glass of red wine or need a cigarette to relax them, others are now opting for shisha as their new chill out fad. Is shisha safe? Do most of us even understand how shisha works?
Shisha, the origins of which are debated (most say Turkey or Persia) is a water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is burnt using coal before being passed through a water vessel. Then, it is inhaled deeply and slowly through a flexible hose, making it an enjoyable, leisurely experience for many enthusiasts.
Shisha smoking is commonly associated with Middle Eastern café culture. To see it in all its glory, you just have to take a stroll down Edgware Road, London, on any day of the week. During evening times, you'll find cafe after cafe filled with groups of people, mainly of Middle-Eastern descent, smoking shisha for several hours.
The tabloids are calling it a dangerous hot craze but that seems a bit over the top. Unlike cigarettes, you don't carry a shisha pipe around with you everywhere you go in order to get your next nicotine high – you visit shisha bars once a while. It's only the regular users who also keep pipes at home that need to be careful.
In recent years, shisha has become one of the most fashionable new activities among young crowds in the UK with cafes popping up in every city. The NHS and other health care providers are worried that frequent shisha users, unlike cigarette smokers, are unaware of the health risks.
Smokers of shisha or herbal tobacco can suffer from high carbon monoxide levels. While a one off trip to your local shisha bar won't harm you, repeated use can have adverse affects on your health. It's difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of smoke or toxic substances you're exposed to in a typical session because people usually smoke shisha for far longer than cigarettes.
Fact: in one standard puff of shisha, you inhale the same amount of smoke as you'd get from smoking one cigarette. It doesn't sound so innocent now does it?
Café owners are quick to brand shisha as a more innocent form of smoking. After all, it's only a bit of fruit flavoured tobacco, right? While shisha may seem like an innocent stimulant drug, the primary care trusts are quick to dispel this myth.
According to a recent report from the USA, nearly one in five high school seniors have smoked a hookah pipe, while many have gone on to smoke it on a weekly basis. Researchers found that shisha is more popular among well-off teenagers. Where are these well-off teenagers getting their pocket money from? Well-off parents of course.
Joseph Palamar, assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said: "I actually didn't find the results very surprising." With cigarette use decreasing so much over the years, it was only a matter of time before an alternative was going to pop up in place of cigarettes.
But what's interesting to Palamar is that students of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to smoke shisha. Typically, students with more educated parents or high personal incomes are at a higher risk. These finding were reported in the journal, Paediatrics.
Maybe the results of the study aren't so interesting if you factor in all the rich teenagers who probably made up half of the study. Also, common sense dictates that smoking shisha is generally more expensive than buying a pack of cigarettes. Thus, it becomes a rich man's habit.
Personally, I can't stand people who keep regurgitating the myth about shisha being safer than smoking. As a result, many younger teenagers remain oblivious of shisha's actual health risks. And before you know it, they'll all be hooked. I wouldn't be surprised if many café owners are mixing the tobacco with addictive intoxicants to get repeat customers.
I used to smoke shisha sometimes and tbh i didn't think about how bad it was, you only do it occasionally so you don't feel like a smoker. Can't believe one puff is like a whole cigarette tho!