“Baby, pass me the hookah!” This Young Thug lyric from 2014 is still very much doing the rounds today, as the hookah pipe sets Mzansi alight. The hookah pipe is a Persian invention from the 16th century. It made its debut in Southern Africa by the late 1900s, but it was only in the mid-2010s that it became fashionable, and thus popular, in Mzansi.

Hookah bars started opening across the country. One of the earliest to open and still the most popular is Sgomza Hookah Lifestyle in the West Rand – it is full even midweek. Now the hookah pipe and its fruity scents linger at every lit affair.

Many users of the hubbly, as it is popularly known, believe that it is less harmful than a regular cigarette – not true. I sat with an acquaintance of mine who didn’t want to be named, who uses the hookah, “but doesn’t smoke”. We had a fiery conversation, as the man was in hookah sesh.

“I started smoking at social gatherings like braais, or when me and the gents were chilling over a couple of drinks. A party isn’t a party without the hookah,” he says, puffing away. “It started as an occasional thing but now, I just enjoy it. I enjoy the flavours; my favourite has to be the blackberry and classic minty.”

Experts say the hookah pipe is more appealing to the younger generation than the cigarette because of its fruity flavours. But hubbly isn’t less harmful than a cigarette; it is in fact more dangerous. According to stopswithme.com the hookah pipe contains 15 times more carbon dioxide than a single cigarette!

The popularity of the hookah pipe does not seem to have led to a decrease in the use of the cigarette. I spoke to a friend of mine who smokes, Sakhumzi: “It’s crazy because I didn’t smoke till I was a grown adult.” Sakkie, as we fondly call him, started smoking in the second year of varsity. “Being in uni was just a different beast; a different struggle. I had to do something to alleviate the stress and anxiety and this bad habit seemed like the best option.” According to Mental Health UK – cigarette users believe that the nicotine in them relieves stress, and they opt for this immediate benefit in exchange for possible long-term negative health effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco smoking is responsible for more than 7 million deaths worldwide. These numbers are expected to grow by a million by 2030. Besides the negative health effects on users, the tobacco industry is also responsible for 1.2 million worldwide deaths due to second-hand smoking, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is also responsible for contributing towards environmental decay. According to Ukiah Recycles, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. Tobacco manufacturing and use poisons water, soil, beaches and city streets with chemicals, toxic waste, cigarette butts and e-cigarette waste. According to the WHO, smoking releases 84 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, and therefore contributes to global warming. According to Imperial UK, in a 2018 survey, the tobacco industry was using 22 billion tons of water annually to produce tobacco.

The tobacco industry is dangerous for us all; so today as we commemorate World No Tobacco Day majita, look after yourselves, and if you use the hubbly and/ or cigarettes to cope with anxiety, try to get professional help. Addiction is hard to curb on your own, get professional help for that too.

Stay winning Kings!


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Tell us: Have you ever used the hookah pipe and then managed to give it up?