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instrument seems to filter more tar and
nicotine. Many will say that the sheesha is
‘safe’ because as the inhaled smoke passes
over a bowl of water and up through a long
tube before reaching a mouthpiece and
entering one ‘ s mouth it feels cooler than
smoke inhaled of a cigarette. At pricier
venues, tubes are inserted directly into the
fleshy pink interiors of watermelons.
(What could seem more fresh?) As their
perceptual defense, sheesha smokers cling to
false sense of confidence that the dangerous
effects from smoking literally have been
But the fact is, because the average sheesha
smoker tends to spend concentrated lengths
of time smoking relatively large amounts
of tobacco at one sitting, even if done only
a few times per week, his or her nicotine
intake is greater than that of the average
cigarette smoker. As a result, sheesha users
are equally if not more acutely vulnerable to
smoking-related diseases.
Saudi/Swedish Study
Commenting on this misconception, Dr.
Mostafa Baljoon, a Saudi Arabian dentist
who concluded a study that incorporated
analysis of sheesha smoking there, said “
Many people [in this region] think that
smoking sheesha is less of a health hazard
than cigarettes because there isn’t much
research on sheesha. “ His study was
prepared by the ethics committee of King
Faisal Specialty Hospital & Research Center
and King Abdul Aziz University Faculty of
Dentistry, both in Jeddah, and was approved
by the ethics committee of Karolinska
Institutet at the Huddinge University Hospital
of Stockholm.
The study invited participation of 325 Saudi
Arabian male and female smokers from the
ages of 21 to 70, to allow doctors to learn
particularly more about oral health hazards
associated with sheesha smoking. Thirty-eight
percent of the participants smoked sheesha,
and 21 percent of them smoked both sheesha
and cigarettes.
According to Dr. Baljoon’s report, there
has been a “remarkable revival” of sheesha
smoking in recent years, noting that the habit
has become as common among women as
men. His concern about the health of both is
drawn from results of his tests that show that
smoking one sheesha is equivalent to smoking
18 cigarettes, nearly one pack. An even more
startling determination was made in another
study conducted by the Ministry of Health in
Qatar. In that study, a Dr. H.A. Hajr concluded
that the mass usually placed inside the bowl
of a common water pipe is the equivalent, in
terms of nicotine, to to the amount consumed
by smoking 50 cigarettes.
The Saudi/Swedish study found that sheesha
as well as cigarette smoking produces
harmful effects on ventilatory capacity and
increases the risk of developing what they
call obstructive-airways disease, with sheesha
smokers being at a greater risk. Furthermore,
enjoy partaking communally with friends
or family members. Even to the most highly
health conscientious among us -- those who
wouldn’t think of smoking anything from
anything -- there is something undeniably
enviable in the look of hanging out with pods
of people lounging along cushions in an
after-dinner haze drawing happily on apple,
honey or cherry-flavoured tobaccos from
burbling water-pipes, blissfully unconcerned
about the portentous potential of being fatally
harmed by repeatedly inhaling tiny particles of
nicotinized carbon monoxide from charcoal
bits used to ignite tobacco placed into it.
Given the seductive atmosphere, it’s easy to get
sucked in.
Cigarettes v. Sheesha
The other reason folks take it up seems due
to the widely clung-to delusion that inhaling
through one of these big gizmos is safer
than dragging on their relatively tiny
cigarette counterparts because the
From unsightly plaque and tooth decay,
periodontal disease, lip and mouth
cancer, decrease in lung function, heart
ailments, decreased brain weight in
infants born to sheesha-smoking or
second-hand-smoke-inhaling mums,
to the transmission of communicable
diseases from shared saliva through
its multi-person use at public venues,
the sheesha sends some breathtaking
smoke signals.
Amazingly however, despite the
worldwide prevalence of information
about the dangers of cigarette smoking,
the practice of sheesha smoking,
typically having been most widely
practiced among the male population
in Arab countries, is presently not only
increasing among Arab women in those
countries, but is also becoming popular
in the West where members of these
populations have settled, unpacked the
pastime, and introduced its practice. Its
newfound, multinational aficionados
now partake in Manchester, Montreal,
and Minneapolis.
July/Aug 2013