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Hubbly bubbly smokers urged not to believe myths this alternative to cigarettes is less harmful

Rethabile Marumo smokes a hubbly bubbly. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Rethabile Marumo smokes a hubbly bubbly. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 13, 2022


Pretoria - Hubbly (hookah) smokers have been urged not to believe myths that this alternative to cigarettes was less harmful and not addictive.

In addition, the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) warned that smoking a hubbly increased the risk of cancer.

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Cansa said it was concerned about the increased use of the water pipes, hubbly bubbly or hookah smoking among young people whose lungs were still developing and could be damaged permanently.

It said the smoke that emerged from a water pipe contains several toxins known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

The other deadly factor is the charcoal burnt in the pipes, that often produces its own toxins, including high levels of carbon monoxide and cancer-causing chemicals.

According to the association, one typical session of smoking a hubbly takes about 20 to 80 minutes, or about 20 to 200 puffs, equivalent to inhaling smoke of 100 or more cigarettes.

While a typical session of smoking a cigarette takes about five to seven minutes, which is eight to 12 puffs and 40ml to 75ml of smoke per puff, it is less than that of a hubbly.

Besides a hubbly increasing the risks of cancer, it can also have long-term health effects such as heart disease, respiratory disease, impotence and skin wrinkling.

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Fourth year UCT medical students, in association with Cansa, did a research project on hubbly smoking and found that just being in a room where others were smoking hubbly could expose one to deadly chemicals.

“Often smokers exchange or share the hubbly or hookah pipes among a group of individuals, and those mouth pieces can spread herpes and TB.”

Cansa national manager for health promotion, Lorraine Govender, said the charcoal used to heat the tobacco could raise health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.

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“Even after it has passed through water, the smoke from a hookah has high levels of these toxic agents.

“Hookah tobacco and smoke contains several toxic agents known to cause lung, bladder, and oral cancers.

“Tobacco juices from hookahs irritate the mouth and increase the risk of developing oral cancers,” said Govender.

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She said common cancers include oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer and cancer of the oesophagus.

Govender said in South Africa, there were strict tobacco control laws regarding cigarette smoking, but not for using a hookah to smoke tobacco.

“There are only six studies over a 10-year period which have been conducted in a South African context, which have shown that substance abuse and high rates of cigarette smoking, especially among the coloured population, is a problem, especially among youths, and has huge implications for families.

“Of grave concern is the current trend to smoke the tobacco with other substances, using the hookah.”

She said using a hookah to smoke tobacco in South Africa was socially acceptable and not controlled by any laws or policies.

“The family may facilitate the exposure to, and experience with, the use of smoking tobacco using the hookah, which has implications for health and future addiction,” said Govender.

According to research conducted in South Africa, children are often present when the hookah is being used, which indicates that children have early exposure to the smoke.

Pretoria News

Related Topics:

Health WelfareCancer