Youth Hooked on Hookah Causing Serious Concern

The prevalence of tobacco use stands at 14%.The prevalence of tobacco use stands at 14%.

Seventeen percent of Iranians above 18 years of age smoke hookah (water pipe), and the average age for first-time smokers has decreased, research carried out in Tehran has revealed.

Zahra Hesami, deputy for treatment at the Tobacco Prevention and Control Research Center, a Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences affiliate, said, “The increase in the use of hookah among adolescents is alarming, with  women and young girls showing a growing tendency for smoking water pipe.”

Calling it an epidemic, Hesami pointed out that many move on to smoking cigarettes after using water pipe. She described the hookah as a gateway drug to harder substances, IRNA reported.

She lamented easy access to water pipes, saying that even parents who do not condone smoking cigarettes seem indifferent toward their children taking up hookah.

“Young people openly and easily smoke water pipes in parks and other public places,” Hesami complained.

She said a nationwide study will be carried out this year in cooperation with the Health Ministry to get a better understanding of the prevalence of hookah smoking and finds ways to discourage the habit.

Data has it that there are more hookah smokers in the southern provinces of Bushehr and Hormozgan than Tehran.

According to the most recent statistics, the prevalence of tobacco use in the country stands at 14%.

“Around 27% of all men and 2.5% of women in Iran smoke,” she said.

Warning photos on cigarette packs have had an impact, albeit small, on deterring people from smoking, Hesami said.

  Adverse Health Effects

Water pipe is a tobacco pipe with a long, flexible tube which draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl.

Contrary to the widely held misconception, water pipe smoking is associated with a variety of adverse short-term and long-term health effects that should reinforce the need for stronger regulation.

Water pipe smoking delivers nicotine—the same highly addictive drug found in other tobacco products. The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can raise health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.

Even after it has passed through water, the smoke still has high levels of toxic agents involved in lung, bladder, and oral cancers. Tobacco juices from water pipes irritate the mouth and increase the risk of developing oral cancers.

While many hookah smokers may think this practice is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.

The tobacco in water pipes is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal, and the smoke is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke. Because of the way it is used, smokers may absorb more of the toxic substances also found in cigarette smoke than cigarette smokers do. An hour-long water pipe smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs.

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