Experts have warned of the dangers of water pipes at the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Abu Dhabi stating that these supposedly ‘safer’ than cigarettes tobacco smoking devices are in fact dangerous for one’s health and at times even more harmful than cigarettes.
The use of water pipes has been increasing dramatically over the course of last few years with strong roots in India, Africa and Middle East.
Water pipes employ an indirect heat source (such as lit charcoal) to slowly burn tobacco leaves while users draw smoke down through a water chamber and into their mouths through hoses. Along with the sugary molasses, ma‘assel – a molasses-soaked smoking tobacco – is flavored heavily with apple, banana, orange, vanilla, and other fruit or candy tastes.
There is a misconception that this form of tobacco use is safer than smoking cigarettes. When hot smoke passes through water at the base of the water pipe, the smoke cools, and is then easily and deeply inhaled by even first-time tobacco smokers. The heavily flavored and cooled water pipe smoke is inhaled in massive quantities. The water’s cooling effect may actually be increasing harm by enabling water pipe smokers to inhale smoke deeper into their lungs.
According to The Tobacco Atlas, which was launched at the conference, a single puff from a water pipe (450mL) is nearly equal to the volume of smoke inhaled from an entire cigarette (500mL).
Tobacco use through water pipes is known to increase risks of lung, lip, mouth, and esophageal cancers. Moreover, the smoke from charcoal used to heat the tobacco contains toxins. The WHO said harmful effects include impact on the “respiratory system, cardiovascular system, oral activity and teeth.”
Though there have been no extensive studies on long-term health effects of water pipes, health scientists confidently predict that water pipe smoking will cause large-scale sickness and death similar to other forms of tobacco.
According to one estimate by The Tobacco Atlas, over 300 million people use smokeless tobacco, and the use of other alternative tobacco products, like water pipes, is growing. Use of water pipe has spread beyond the traditional countries and is becoming integrated into the global tobacco market.
The Tobacco Atlas says that water pipes fall into a less heavily or un-regulated group of tobacco products because of which regions where there are otherwise strong smoking bans like in Europe and North America, there are at times specific exemptions that allow for smoking of water pipes in cafés, enabling public smoking in otherwise smoke-free areas.
Water pipe use is also on the rise among adolescents and young adults on college campuses and beyond, even among people who explicitly refuse to smoke cigarettes.