To some people, smoking shisha is the perfect way to unwind in an evening after a long day. Just the same way some will enjoy a glass of red wine or need a cigarette to keep going while they are working, shisha smokers also like to have a taste of shisha.
Although, shisha smoking is a little new in Nigeria, but it is fast becoming a trend and an act of pleasure among youths and teenagers.
Shisha, also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or Hubble bubble smoking cannot be traced to one particular origin, (some say India, others assert Persia or Turkey). It is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavored tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavored tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet, making it an enjoyable and unrushed experience, even as it burns into the lungs.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains that shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than cigarette smoke. Popular flavorings include apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, strawberry and cola, the BHF says.
However, wood, coal, or charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create the smoke because the fruit syrup or sugar does make the tobacco damp.
Despite the assorted ingredients used in preparing shisha, there are inherent dangers that shisha smoking poses to health.
Below are some of them:
• Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
• Generally, when you smoke shisha, you and anyone sitting near you are breathing in smoke which releases toxins, including carbon monoxide and heavy metals – reducing your body’s ability to carry oxygen around in your blood.
• It’s difficult to say exactly how much smoke or toxic substances you’re exposed to in a typical shisha session. People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than they smoke a cigarette, and in one puff of shisha, you inhale the same amount of smoke as you’d get from a smoking a whole cigarette.
• The average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour and research by the WHO has shown that within this time, you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 cigarettes.
• Some people assume that shisha smoking is not addictive because the water used in the pipe can absorb nicotine. In reality, however, because only some of the nicotine is absorbed by the water, shisha smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause an addiction.
• Some smoke herbal shisha, thinking that it is safer. No, it isn’t. Shisha, herbal or not, usually contains tobacco. Fruit or herbal flavors do not mean the product is healthy. Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the shisha.
• Second-hand smoke is also a worry. If you are smoking with other people or in a public place and the shisha includes cigarette tobacco, it is likely you will breathe in their second-hand smoke too.
• Lastly, sharing mouthpieces used in shisha smoking puts you at risk of oral herpes, mouth and throat cancers.
Although, enthusiasts say shisha is sweet and pleasurable, what you should know as a shisha smoker or potential smoker is that shisha is addictive and poses a great danger to the lungs and overall well-being.