Shisha, hookah, nargila, bong, water pipe, whatever you call it, it's still bad for your health. Smokers, especially in the Middle East, think they're doing themselves a favour by using a water pipe but new research says it's just as bad as cigarettes.
Health News Digest reports that water pipe users and many doctors believe that the pipes can filter out the toxic elements of tobacco and therefore are not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. But a new study at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran, and published in the journal Respirology, has discovered that is not the case.
Researchers compared the lung function and respiratory problems among 57 water pipe smokers, 51 cigarette smokers who inhale normally or deeply and 44 non-smokers. They found that the respiratory symptoms were the same for those using a bong as smokers who inhale deeply.
The Times of India quotes lead researcher Dr. Mohammad Hossein Boskabady saying, "Our findings reveal that there were profound effects of water pipe smoking on lung function values, which were similar to the effects observed in deep inhalation cigarette smokers."
Medical News Today reports that wheezing was found in 23% of water pipe users, 30% of deep-inhalers, 21.6% of normal smokers, and only 9.1% among non-smokers. There was also an increased incidence for tightness in the chest and a cough was reported in 21% of water pipe users, 36.7% of deep inhalers, 19.6% of normal smokers and just 6.8% of non-smokers.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) says most nargila (as it's called in Israel) tobacco is imported from Arab countries, where the tobacco crops are often irrigated using sewage water and there are few quality controls in place.
The JPost says smoking a water pipe is also a more drawn-out process, sometimes lasting for hours, unlike a cigarette. The ICA says tobacco packets are usually infused with a sweet odor or 'flavour' that misleads users into thinking they are more "healthful and innocent" and the moisture created by the water eases the feeling of dryness in the throat that happens with cigarettes.
The ICA says besides lung cancer and heart disease, nargila users are also at risk of throat cancer, herpes of the lips and infectious mononucleosis ("kissing disease") because the water pipes are passed around.