Cigarettes are pretty much out among children and young people – that’s the good news from the German government’s latest drug and addiction report. Instead, however, kids are increasingly turning to shisha or hookah. The question of how dangerous this new trend is and how it should be regulated is asked not only by parents and teachers, but also by doctors and people in the healing professions.
What does the drug and addiction report say?
The German government’s 2016 Drug and Addiction Report confirms the trend: only 7.8 percent of young people between the ages of twelve and 17 still smoke cigarettes – a new low in a long-term comparison. In contrast, 27.3 percent of teenagers have already smoked hookah once.
What is a shisha actually?
Shisha is also known as hookah, boory or hubble-bubble and is widely used, especially in Africa and Asia. It is built up from a glass vessel with water, a clay vessel with tobacco attached over it as well as a smoke column including valve. The smoke is sucked into the mouth through a hose.
Unlike cigarettes, the tobacco is not burned, but smolders at much lower temperatures. But of course there is still smoke.
In addition, a special tobacco is usually used in hookahs, to which fruits, fruit essences or syrup have been added. Thus, the hookah tobacco tastes different and usually much more pleasant than the tobacco of the cigarette – and it contains much less nicotine than classic tobacco.
Also possible is the use of completely nicotine-free herbs, which can be flavored differently and usually also taste of fruit.
No nicotine, no danger?
The fact that they do not consume nicotine – or at least considerably less nicotine than when smoking cigarettes – is a rather popular argument of adolescent hookah smokers who are asked by parents or health care professionals about their smoking behavior.
You shouldn’t be satisfied with that argument, though: Not only nicotine is dangerous, but tar and carbon monoxide also pose health hazards – and you inhale a not inconsiderable amount of these substances when smoking shisha. Depending on the smoking product, this can even be more than with filterless cigarettes.
Arsenic, chromium and nickel can also be detected in the smoke of a shisha: All of these substances are considered carcinogenic and should therefore be avoided as far as possible. The drug and addiction report of the federal government lists 24 more carcinogenic substances that are unintentionally consumed when smoking hookah, and a total of 82 that must at least be classified as harmful to health.
How high is the addiction potential?
Shisha smoking is, all things considered, not entirely harmless – this should be pointed out to kids when they try it for the first time, so that they can realistically assess and weigh the dangers. However, shisha smoking is like many other things: it’s the dose that makes the poison. Anyone who takes a drag on a shisha once every three years and is otherwise healthy should be able to tolerate it without serious harm.
It’s a different story when shisha smoking first becomes a beloved habit that you indulge in regularly, and finally an addiction that you absolutely have to give in to. So what about the addictiveness of hookah smoking??
First of all, it must be stated: Shisha smoke is significantly more pleasant than that of a cigarette. It tastes like fruit, it doesn’t scratch the throat, and it lacks all the unpleasant side effects that have made many a smoker’s first cigarette their last.
The risk of physical addiction depends primarily on what is smoked: Nicotine is the main addictive substance; if it is contained in shisha tobacco, the risk of addiction is similar to that of cigarettes. Smoking products without nicotine, on the other hand, pose little risk of physical dependence.
However, the danger of psychological dependence, which can also occur independently of nicotine, must be taken into account. It is especially true when shisha smoking is associated with a sense of community and companionship that may not come as easily through other means. Parents, teachers and health care professionals should take countermeasures in good time and make other community experiences possible, so that the feeling of being in good hands and recognized in a group is not inextricably linked with the shisha for the teenagers.
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