Put that in your pipe and (don’t) smoke it
Despite warnings and health risks, youngsters are continuing to flaunt their hookah pipe use on Instagram
Millions of images and videos of attractive men and women showing off their hookah habits are a dime a dozen on Instagram.
But a group of international researchers who examined nearly 300 such posts on the picture and video sharing platform found that the portrayal and promotion of hookah smoking on social media can normalise its use and pose health challenges.
Using a hookah – which is also called shisha, or water pipe, smoking - has become increasingly popular among university students in particular.
According to the World Health Organisation, Middle Eastern and North African countries have the highest prevalence of water pipe use in the world, especially among young people.
Among children aged 13 to 15 from various countries in these regions, the prevalence of water pipe smoking ranged from 9% to 15%.Water pipe users tend to be younger and more affluent, except in India and Vietnam, where the users are more likely to be older, rural males, the WHO found.
The researchers from universities like Miami and Wisconsin in the US randomly selected 279 posts from 11,517 tagged #hookah or #shisha within a four-day period.
Out of the reviewed posts:
99.6% indicated positive sentiments towards hookah use;
Only one post mentioned negative health effects associated with hookah use;
63.8% were promotional in nature; and
Most posts were associated with nightlife, community and hookah identity.
Of particular concern is that, just like regular tobacco, hookah contains nicotine.
But the researchers also noted that 10% of all posts used the hashtag #HookahAddiction, signalling that nicotine addiction from hookah pipes was not perceived as a health risk that would discourage potential users – but instead referred to ironically or as a “badge of honour”.
Savera Kalideen, head of the National Council Against Smoking in South Africa, said there was a common “erroneous” belief that hookah use was less harmful than cigarette consumption because the water in the pipe filters the smoke.“However, during a one-hour shisha session, the user inhales an amount of smoke that is equivalent to the smoke from 100 cigarettes.
“The disease burden from hookah is the same as for cigarettes, which includes cancers, lung and heart disease, but also the risk of mouth and gum disease, herpes and TB, which is specific to hookah use, because the pipe is shared.
“Children are at particular risk of inhaling second-hand smoke from hookah use because hookah use is often a social activity, and used in the presence of the entire family. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk of bronchial, respiratory and lung infections such as pneumonia.
“A Unisa survey of secondary school users in 2016 found that more than half of the pupils who took part in the study smoked hookah.
“It remains extremely popular among adolescents, with an increase in use among female pupils, with both males and females viewing hookah use as less dangerous than cigarette smoking,” Kalideen said...