Growing up in London I’ve seen many things come and go – ‘happy slap’ videos, grime music and Tony Blair’s integrity. But one thing has come and never gone – shisha cafes.
The rise of the shisha cafes was swift and rapid. Every week there was a new place would pop up – usually somewhere along the murky depths of Edgware Road.
To this day they are still popping up left, right and centre.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what a shisha pipe looks like.
It contains heated tobacco that is passed through water, and the user takes ‘pulls’ through the pipe, producing a deceptively comforting ‘bubble’ sound.
So what’s the deal with shisha? Is it dangerous? And why is it so popular?
First thing’s first, it’s easy to see why people get sucked into it.
The buzz of a busy cafe, young people of the opposite sex, football on the TV, good music, and the intoxicating smell of apple and mint wafting through the air – it all makes for a perfect night of Snapchat stories.
Not only that, but certain shisha places are hangout spots for celebrities, making them even more of an attractive option for impressionable young people.
So with that said, is it even that big of a deal?
According to most young people, it isn’t. Many assume that the smoke from a shisha pipe is safer than a cigarette (maybe because it’s passed through water).
This is not true.
We all know the numerous negative effects of smoking cigarettes, and shisha is no different. Similar to cigs, it uses tobacco and the health outcomes are most likely the same.
The smoke coming from the shisha pipe contains carbon monoxide, tar, and heavy metals to name a few things.
In other words – toxic and cancer-causing.
The numbers vary, but scientists estimate that 1 hour of shisha can be equivalent to 2-10 cigarettes (more extreme estimates suggest 1 hour is worth 100 cigarettes!)
To make this worse, the average time spent at a shisha establishment is 2-3 hours – and that’s a conservative guess if anything.
Multiply this by 2-3 nights a week and you are asking for addiction and chronic illness (shisha is addictive because it contains nicotine, the addictive substance found in cigs).
And not only do shisha sessions tend to be way longer than cigarette sessions, but they also often take place in hotboxed rooms, making the effects even worse. You sit there inhaling your own smoke, as well high amounts of passive smoke.
Furthermore, the majority of shisha ‘lounges’ also double up as ‘restaurants’, selling deserts, burgers and snacks.
Normally at fast food establishments, you eat your meal and leave. But if you’re going to a shisha restaurant for hours at a time, you are most likely going to order multiple snacks throughout. It all adds up.
While there’s nothing wrong with this for an occasional treat, many shisha-goers spend their whole weekends doing this.
The smoking and diet together form a very dangerous cocktail for your health and physique.
In terms of superficial reasons not to do shisha, there are plenty.
People who smoke regularly tend to have more stomach fat, less muscle size and less muscular endurance due to poor blood and oxygen supply.
So big belly, no muscle, and no stamina. Very stubborn and difficult to reverse.
Lung damage makes cardio more difficult too. So the whole process of going to the gym becomes more arduous, and making any form of progress becomes more difficult.
So no, shisha is definitely not harmless compared to cigarettes. It’s just as problematic, if not more for the reasons mentioned above.
If you are complaining about your health and physique but are going to smoking regularly, you are missing a huge part of the puzzle.
People who started shisha in their teens are showing up at age 30 addicted, fat and out of shape. And people are starting younger and younger.
If you smoke consistently and can see it’s affecting you, you must take action.