Shisha is the modern form of hooka. Hooka used to be a pipe attached to a bowl in which you would put coal and tobacco and smoke it. Now the modern form and name quite popular is shisha. Shisha was first invented in the United Arab Emirates. It is based on the form of a hooka but has a water bowl at the bottom and the tobacco which is flavored is put on top in a ceramic bowl, It is inhaled through a bendable pipe. The smoke travels through the water and enters the person’s lungs. Shisha became very popular when it was initially developed and released and was welcomed widely by people even those who didn’t smoke simple cigarettes. Shisha bars were opened where they would serve your favorite flavoured shisha and people could tweek their shisha with redbull or coca cola instead of water. But is shisha all that safe?

asim jalalShisha is a fruit-scented herbal tobacco smoked from a water pipe (the water pipe may also be referred to as a shisha). The tobacco is burnt by coal, travels through a water vessel and is inhaled through a hose. Though often thought of as less harmful than smoking cigarettes, a study by the Department of Health and the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre shows that smoking shisha is as dangerous or more dangerous than cigarettes.

Carbon Monoxide

A single session of smoking shisha produces carbon monoxide levels four to five times higher than those produced from smoking a cigarette. When the breath of heavy tobacco smokers was measured, carbon monoxide levels of 30 to 40 ppm (parts per million) were found. These levels indicate that approximately 5 to 7 percent of blood was not functioning properly. The breath of shisha smokers measured 40 to 70 ppm of carbon monoxide, resulting in 8 to 12 percent of blood being affected. BBC News notes that the normal carbon monoxide level is 3 ppm. Elevated carbon monoxide levels can result in brain damage and unconsciousness.

Infectious Disease

Though not a risk directly associated with shisha, the spread of infectious disease is associated with shared water pipes. Saliva transferred from an infected person to a non-infected person via an uncleaned hose can spread dangerous diseases, such as tuberculosis, herpes and the H1N1 virus, as well as more common illnesses such as the cold and flu viruses. 

Other Risks

Much like cigarette smoke, shisha smoke can lead to heath problems such as lung disease, emphysema, asthma, low birth weight and cancer of the mouth, esophagus and lungs. According to Professor Javaid Khan of Aga Khan University in Pakistan, "regular shisha users have lung functions approximately 25 percent lower than those who do not use this." Professor Khan also notes that children are especially susceptible to harmful effects such as lung infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.

The perception that smoking shisha is not dangerous must be changed as it could be detrimental to health, said a respiratory expert. Shisha, which originated from India, was known as Hookah, Narghile, 'Waterpipe' and Bong, and is very popular throughout the world, especially in Middle East countries.

Shisha has two types of tobacco, namely 'mu'assal' (mixture of tobacco, fruits such as apple, banana and cherry, as well as sweet substances apart from glycerine, flavouring and colouring) and 'ajami' (unflavoured, dry and original).

Shisha tobacco which does not burn continuously by itself, is assisted by a piece of smouldering charcoal. Based on earlier studies, a session of shisha which took about 30 minutes to an hour produced 101 puffs, as compared to a cigarette smoking session which involved only 11 puffs.

From the inhalation of smoke, shisha produces 503ml of smoke in each session, as compared to 50ml for cigarette, while the duration of each shisha drag is 2.7 seconds, and only 1.5 seconds for cigarette smoking. Apart from producing more smoke which is equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes, shisha also contains 100 to 200 times more nicotine than cigarette.

Now as research into shisha has expanded and it is scientifically proven to be more dangerous than cigarettes it is being banned in all of the first world countries and also throughout the world although in third world countries it is still being sold to take home or being served illegally which is a major risk for our youth who find it fun and something that they see as being cool.