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Shisha: a healthier alternative to cigarettes?


I will start with an emphatic NO. There is no such thing as a healthy smoking option. The common misconception is that because shisha (also known as hookah) is sweet and flavored it isn’t that bad.

In fact some do believe it doesn’t contain tobacco and the few who believe do think it is void of nicotine (the powerfully addictive substance in tobacco products) and other dangerous chemicals. Shisha can be just as dangerous as cigarettes.

Cathy says “The first time I tasted it was during my birthday when I was in the University of Buea. My friends bought it for me.  I was a little scared at first but when I saw how at ease my girlfriends took it, I gave it a try. It was very sweet like bonbon so I knew it was harmless. How can something so sweet and fun be dangerous?”

Shisha presents itself as a water pipe used to smoke sweetened (with fruit pulp or honey) and flavored (fruit flavors, coffee, mint, coconut etc) tobacco making it more attractive to young people who usually take it in social gatherings as a group activity. This sweetness and flavoring makes the smoke less irritant to the airway and so many more puffs are taken in. 

Apart from exposing yourself to health risk associated with sharing same mouthpiece (hence saliva) like hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus (kissing disease), herpes simplex (cold sores), tuberculosis, rhinovirus ( cold) shisha contains nicotine and other cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes which are not filtered by the water in shisha.

Your body is fueled by oxygen and when you keep fueling your body with the smoke from shisha you run the risk of ‘running out of air’ which can lead to suffocation.

It is said that a typical bowl of shisha could be equivalent to 20 cigarettes.

Shisha could be compared to a wolf (addictive and dangerous) in sheep clothing (sweet taste and aroma) so be on your guard and do not be fooled by commercials. Health first!


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Ekwoge Hilda

Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills.

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