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Ever since the 1960s, when cigarettes were deemed unhealthy, there has been constant effort to educate people on the tragic effects of smoking. It seems that one cannot go a day without hearing about how cigarettes are harmful. Some people are even victims of second-hand smoke on a daily basis. To some, the constant reminder that cigarettes are bad is a nuisance. To others, it can be a helpful way to prevent them from smoking. However, commercials and warning labels are not enough to protect and educate people about the dangers.
Some teens argue that they smoke hookah because it is safe, or at least safer than smoking cigarettes or marijuana. Unfortunately, they are wrong; smoking hookah is just as, if not more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (Source A), contrary to the popular belief that the smoke of water pipes has little or no side effects and is less harmful than cigarette smoking, the smoke that emerges from the water pipe contains several toxins known to cause lung cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease and emphysema. Researchers have found that hookah smokers inhale more often and for longer periods than typical cigarette smokers. Scientists estimate that by puffing longer and in greater volume, a water pipe smoker inhales the equivalent of 100 cigarettes or more during a single water pipe session.
Along with the smoke, when teens inhale hookah from a bong, they are also inhaling the addicting chemical called nicotine, which is more commonly associated with cigarettes. While you may think you are avoiding this nasty substance by indulging in a hookah smoke instead, this is not the case. According to the Mayo Clinic (Source B), hookah smoking contains about the same amount of nicotine as cigarettes do, putting smokers at risk for tobacco dependence in much the same way as cigarette smoke.
So why choose hookah over cigarettes if it is just as legal and just as lethal as cigarettes? The answer is because hookah is more socially acceptable. In today’s world, we see smoking cigarettes becoming a banned practice everywhere from the beaches to restaurants; it seems as if the only refuge for a cigarette smoker these days is in their own homes. It’s more social for teens to sit in a group and smoke hookah than cigarettes. Hookah is more about the experience, whereas smoking cigarettes is more of a necessity. The candy-sweet flavours hook kids in and popular myths that smoking hookah isn’t as bad for you as smoking cigarettes only add to the appeal. However, tobacco products may not be sold or supplied to anyone under the age of 18 and if so there will be R100 000.00 fine. The law includes the sale of flavoured Tobacco products used for smoking the hookah pipe, or hubbly bubbly. A number of tobacco laws are often misunderstood or plainly ignored. Tobacco legislation in South Africa is constantly changing, and ignorant smokers may find themselves on the wrong side of the law with fines up to R100 000.00 (Source D).
Whether teens smoke hookah because they think it’s safe, legal, or more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes, they are making a poor decision. Smoking hookah is just as legal and just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, and even if they may think they look cool while doing it, teens need to think before they decide to smoke hookah. Parents should start talking to them about the dangers. After all, if they care enough about their kids to go over some of the drugs out there in life, they may as well go over them all, skipping over a drug, even one as acceptable as hookah, is not worth the risk of losing a child to addictive substances.
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