Girl smoking waterpipe
After decades of health warnings, awareness campaigns and media exposes, most of us finally get the message that smoking is not only bad for us, it kills. Unfortunately, even as cigarettes have begun to lose their appeal, many teens and young adults are now being drawn to tobacco through other equally dangerous products.
Hookah is tobacco pipe with a long, flexible tube draws and cools smoke through a bowl of water and students are being increasingly drawn to its use. In fact, a study recently published in the journal, Pediatrics, showed that nearly one in five US students had tried hookah in the past year. Another study found that hookah usage among high school seniors had risen by 21 percent in the last year. The problem is that, in many ways, hookah smoking is actually more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. Hookah smokers generally consume more harmful chemicals than cigarette smokers and the water in the hookah pipe doesn’t effectively filter these poisons. In fact, a study by the National Institutes of Health showed that a single hookah session delivers 1.7 times the nicotine of a single cigarette, 6.5 times the carbon monoxide and 46.4 times the tar.
Not surprisingly, candy flavoured tobacco products are also very popular with youth. Although federal laws currently ban flavoured cigarettes & cigars, tobacco companies have found a loophole with cigarillos (cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less). These cigarillos come in bright packaging that look more like candy than tobacco and with flavours such as watermelon, chocolate or strawberry, they make it easier for youth to get past the unpleasant taste of tobacco and start smoking. Despite this flavouring and colourful packaging, these products are still very harmful. In fact, a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than half of those between grades 9 and 12 who smoke actually use flavoured tobacco products and it’s estimated that roughly 29,000 teenagers each month try a flavoured tobacco product for the first time.
With 70 percent of future smokers picking up the habit before their 18th birthday and a new wave of alternative tobacco products targeting youth, it’s as important as ever for all of us to recognize these products for what they are, a potential gateway to a lifelong habit that kills one out of every two long-term users.