Smoking hubbly is becoming an increasingly popular activity among the youth, with many renting out hubbly bubbly pipes at events, restaurants, and bars mainly because it is seen as a fun way to get together with friends. Hubbly bubbly smoking evolved into a subculture mostly embraced by the youth. A hookah (also known as hubbly bubbly) is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. It is also referred to as a “Oka pyp”, shisha, goza, or borry.

The use of hookah is not regulated by law or policies and it is socially acceptable. Hookah tobacco comes in a variety of flavours, including apple, plum, coconut, mango, strawberry, caramel, and mint. In hookah shops, the fruity smell of the flavoured tobacco attracts young people, and misleads them to believe that hookah is a safe way to smoke tobacco.

Hookah bars and lounges are emerging as well, where a communal hookah is placed at each table for everyone to share. Because of the social atmosphere hookah creates and its misconception as a safe alternative to smoking, hookah use is increasing dramatically among youth. As a result, children can be found around the presence of people smoking hookah and the children are exposed to secondary smoking, which is also harmful. Secondary smokers are defined as people who are not engaging in the practice of smoking but are in close proximity to those smoking. According to a research study done by fourth-year MBChB UCT students, “Hubbly Bubbly: masquerading the dangers”, the hookah water filter and fruity flavours of the hubbly bubbly often mask a toxic cocktail of compounds. These compounds include nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, and lead.

When smoking hubbly bubbly, the flavoured tobacco is placed inside a bowl at the top of the hubbly bubbly pipe. The bowel is then covered with a porous piece of tin foil and hot coals are placed on top. As one inhales through the hose, heat is sucked from the coals through the tinfoil and past the tobacco. Smoke from the tobacco then moves through a pipe down to the bottom of the pipe where it passes through water that acts as a filter before the smoke is inhaled. According to research hubbly, bubbly sessions are commonly 30-80 minutes and involve roughly 100 inhalations of 500ml of smoke each, resulting in 50 000ml of smoke inhalations in total compared to 500ml-600 ml per cigarette (Djordjevic et al., 2000) A typical session of cigarette smoking takes about 5-7 minutes which equates to about 8-12 puffs while a session of smoking hubbly takes about 20-80 minutes or roughly 20-200 puffs which equates to inhaling the smoke of about 100+ cigarettes per person.

The common perception is that waterpipe smoking is less harmful than cigarettes because the smoke is purified as it passes through the water. However, tobacco smoking in general is associated with large numbers of toxins, therefore hookah smokers are likely to be exposed to higher levels of toxins due to the average length of time spent smoking (Eissenberg et al., 2008). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the smoke in hubbly bubbly contains several toxins known to cause lung cancer, periodontal diseases, cardiovascular disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Sharing the pipe also exposes one to diseases such as herpes simplex, hepatitis, and TB.

Another perception regarding hubbly bubbly is that it is less addictive as opposed to cigarettes hence it is socially accepted. Hubbly Bubbly smokers believe that toxins in the smoke are filtered out by the water in the pipe which makes it less harmful and non-addictive. However, the longer duration of a typical hookah session results in greater nicotine exposure than cigarette smoking (Muzammil et al., 2019).

Additional dangers of Hubbly Bubbly

Hookah smoking is linked to many of the same adverse health effects as cigarette smoking, such as lung, bladder, and oral cancers and heart disease. Hookah tobacco smoke contains carcinogens – cancer-causing chemicals. Long-term effects include impaired pulmonary function, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, esophageal cancer, and gastric cancer which may lead to early death.
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Reduced lung capacity
Reduced fitness
Nicotine dependence
Danger for children as they may develop asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia

Before you think about being cool, think about your health. Remember health is wealth. Let us make better choices and not succumb to peer pressure and the idea of wanting to be cool.

Tell us: Do you think the recreational pleasure that people get out of smoking hookah pipes are worth the health risks?