Hookah pipe smoking trend rises in Ireland amid health warning

Hookahs are used to inhale smoke in a variety of flavours. Photo: Getty Images

Eilish O'Regan

It’s the exotic pipe-smoking trend that is growing in popularity in Ireland.

More people are taking to smoking trendy hookah pipes in the belief that they do not pose a hazard.

But doctors here are now saying they need to carry a health warning and they are not safe.

Hookahs are water-pipes used to smoke specially made tobacco mixtures in a wide variety of flavours.

They have been used for centuries in the Middle East, and now hookah is increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, including among teenagers and young adults.

The first survey of where hookah can be bought in Ireland has found at least 39 outlets including bars, restaurants, tea houses and cafes and shops.

Dr Salma R Al-Kalbani, of the HSE’s Health Intelligence Unit, who led the study said that 32 of the outlets were in Dublin, with a high concentration in the north inner city. “Compared to Ireland generally, electoral districts with hookah retail outlets had a higher proportion of younger people aged under 35 with greater ethnic and cultural diversity,” said the study in the Irish Medical Journal.

While hookah-smoking is seen as more socially acceptable and less harmful than cigarettes, various studies have linked it to lung, bladder and oral cancers as well as heart disease.

Such is its popularity that it is the second most popular tobacco smoked among college students in the US.

The study findings showed 82.1pc of the outlets were in Dublin, 5.1pc in Cork, 5.1pc in Waterford, 2.6pc in Limerick with a similar portion in Laois and Galway.

It said that the national Health Ireland surveys, which measure lifestyle habits and health does not capture what kind of tobacco people are smoking.

Overall smoking prevalence in Ireland is highest among people aged 25-34, and the under-35s are prominent in areas where hookah is sold.

There is a risk posed given the role the sale of tobacco plays in influencing people to start smoking and continue with the habit.

It also highlighted that the misconception of hookah being less harmful than traditional cigarettes is problematic.

“The common addition of flavours to hookah is a particular risk for young people, given that the use of characterising flavours to distract from the harmful nature of the product has been a key tobacco industry tactic to sustain youth initiation of cigarette smoking.”

The research noted that in countries, where hookah is a common form of smoking, use is more socially acceptable and associated with cafe culture.

The study added that it is important that outlets selling tobacco products, including hookah be included in licensing.

A typical hookah session lasts one hour and involves 200 puffs, which can result in around 90,000ml of smoke being inhaled. Smoking a traditional cigarette involves 20 puffs with 500-600ml of smoke inhaled.

The added risk for hookah smokers is that they spend longer inhaling the fumes.

More Irish News

Top Stories