By Mpho Kuhlmann
“Bring a hookah with you…” a phrase quite common among young adults. Much to the chagrin of the health conscious, Shisha (hookah) smoking is gaining popularity gradually and steadily among a section of the youths who are enticed by the large plumes of smoke and smoke rings they find so entertaining.
Local restaurant have found a new business growth area, organising hookah sessions for local youths. Hookah is an old Arabic traditional method for consuming tobacco his has become a big hit with Gaborone youngsters.
The use of hookah or hubbly bubblies as they are popularly known is a growing trend among Botswana’s young adults with many arguing that hookah smoking is safer. Many adolescents and adults believe that hookah use is less dangerous than conventional smoking.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has however revealed that the smoke from a hookah pipe contains several toxins known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases. It delivers the addictive nicotine found in cigarettes, and the charcoal burned in the pipes often produces toxins that are not found in cigarettes, such as high levels of carbon monoxide. During an hour-long shisha smoking session, the smoker will inhale 100 to 200 times the amount of smoke than that of one cigarette. Shisha and cigarettes are both composed of tobacco, but shisha is smoked longer and in larger amounts .A common effect of this drug is temporary lightheadedness, often followed by a feeling of relaxation or fatigue.
A common misconception most hookah smokers have is that it is safe because the water in hookahs absorbs the harmful substances present in tobacco smoke. WHO has however revealed that the humidity of the smoke increases when it passes through water and this humid toxic smoke stays for a longer time in the lungs and causes deadly diseases. It has become a ‘fashionable’ habit and is commonly considered as a part of everyday social events.
Scented tobaccos played a significant role in increasing the popularity and frequency of smoking hookah among the youth. Amongst other things, the flavours are what attract the youth and the easy ambience at hookah bars adds to their appeal. The dim lights, cushions in bright colours and snug corners with ample reclining room are a far cry from the stiff chairs and table settings of conventional restaurants. The music is young and vibey ÔÇôjust how young people prefer it. Many have switched to using hookahs at home. Alcohol can also be used as a base instead of water and marijuana can be sprinkled on the tobacco for an intense high.
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says a lot of young adults tend to be carried away by trends. “Appealing ways to smoke tobacco, like hookah and cigars, are increasingly popular with young adults; Hookah is often smoked in group settings and at commercial establishments, such as hookah bars and flavours play a significant role in drawing youth to use hookah, and they are one of the main reasons youth use the product they use hookah is because they like to socialize with it. The common misconception of hookah is that it is less harmful and less addictive relative to cigarettes which just prove how a lot of young adults are misinformed.”
Maatla Setshega a second year student at Limkokwing University of Technology says she loves smoking hookah. “I love the alternate culture hookah joints brought in. Unlike the formal setting of coffee bars, they introduced a more relaxed setting that has so much more visual appeal, most places that offer hookahs are youth-oriented and have a very relaxed atmosphere. People can sit there for hours, just chilling. I enjoy it very much.”
Thabo Modiegi, a bank clerk at Barclays bank of Botswana in Gaborone says hookah smoking is so overhyped when it really isn’t cool.” After a while of smoking shisha, my throat always hurts. I also find that there is a fine line between light-headedness and headaches. The long-term effects of shisha can be extremely dangerous. Excessive smoking can lead to lung cancer due to the toxic substances in the smoke. These substances can also cause clogged arteries and heart disease; there is the risk of nicotine addiction and the exposure to second-hand smoke. Taking into consideration that hookahs are usually shared by two or more people, the risk of spreading diseases and illnesses shoots sky high.