GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Guyana health officials say there is a notable increase in the use of hookahs, especially among young adults who perceive it as a safer smoking alternative to cigarettes.
Chronic Diseases Coordinator, Dr. Kavita Singh, says there is genuine concern at the government level since hookah smoking has become popular among the younger population and that the Ministry of Public Health is informing the population that there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.
“It is much more harmful in the sense that it increases the abuse liability. By passing the smoke through water it becomes less harsh and by adding flavour it becomes more palatable to the user so the user tends to use more over a longer period so you find there is increased exposure to one of the major components and that is carbon monoxide,” Dr. Singh explained.
She said that a person exposed to one session of hookah gets 15 times more the amount of carbon monoxide as compared to using conventional cigarettes since that person will be inhaling 100 times the smoke than if they had smoked cigarettes.
Dr Singh added that “a lot of persons are under the impression that hookah is not tobacco. I want to emphasise that hookah is tobacco at least that is how it was invented to be used; of course, we know there are variations.”
She emphasised that there is no safe tobacco product and the use of tobacco will remain on the government’s radar.
“We will not stop until there is no user of tobacco. It’s a long cry but we are willing to take up the challenge,” Dr. Singh declared.
According to data issued by the American Heart Association, there is growing evidence that hookah smoking affects heart rate and blood pressure, with chronic use linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
A review of the evidence shows that hookah smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals present in cigarettes, and sometimes, these harmful chemicals are even higher in hookah than in cigarettes.