Is Hookah A Healthy Alternative to Cigarettes?

In Mumbai, India this past week, the Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil announced plans to close down the city’s hookah parlors. He cited hookah addiction among the younger generation as the main reason behind the proposed shutdowns.

According to the World Health Organization, smoking hookah for 45 minutes is equivalent to smoking 50 tobacco cigarettes—that’s 2 ½ packs of cigarettes in one sitting. Like cigarettes, hookah has been linked to lung cancer, oral cancer and heart disease.

In the United States, hookah smoking doesn’t carry the same stigma as buying a pack of cigarettes. Yet perhaps it should. Many younger people believe that hookah is an acceptable alternative to smoking cigarettes. Yet, the amount of nicotine metabolized in a single hookah session is similar to the nicotine obtained by several cigarettes. This means that hookah addiction is a very real and frightening possibility. R.R. Patil was really onto something when he mentioned “hookah addiction.”

Moreover, the amount of harmful chemicals being inhaled during a hookah session is actually greater than smoking a cigarette. And instead of getting these chemicals over a ten minute period while smoking a cigarette, the chemicals in hookah smoke are usually distributed over a longer hookah session lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

Clearly, hookah isn’t quite as innocent as many people think it is. Smoking hookah even twice a week is just like having a really heavy cigarette habit. And just as smoking cigarettes can lead to oral cancer, hookah has the same potential. Moreover, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that hookah is related to gum disease. Cigarette smokers were 3.8 times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Hookah smokers, meanwhile, were 5 times more likely.

Back in Mumbai, R.R. Patil expects that the state government will approve the new measures against hookah parlors this year. Mumbai already has bans on hookah in place, but enforcement has been difficult and lacking. Perhaps this new push will be more successful.

Here in the United States, it’s important to remember that hookah is not an acceptable alternative to cigarettes. It carries the same risks of cancer and other diseases that characterize cigarette addiction. If you have questions about cigarettes and oral health, contact Greenspoint Dental today.