PUBLISHED: 17:01 GMT, 14 March 2012 | UPDATED: 20:52 GMT, 14 March 2012
Hubbly-bubbly, hookah or shisha – whatever name it goes by, puffing on a Turkish waterpipe is the latest trend to hit British bars and cafes.
The flavoured tobacco, which is smoked via a long pipe connected to a vessel filled with water, is particularly fashionable among young people, with the number of specialist bars rising 210 per cent since 2007.
But the World Health Organisation has warned that a one-hour shisha session can be as harmful as smoking 100 cigarettes.
This is because a cigarette smoker typically takes between eight and 12 puffs, inhaling 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke.
But during hour-long shisha sessions smokers may take up to 200 drags, ranging from 0.15 to 1 litre of smoke each.
‘Shisha smoking is a growing concern because people aren’t aware of the risks like they are with cigarette smoking,’ says Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London.
‘The greater the exposure in terms of duration and amount smoked, the greater the risk to your health’
That’s because although shisha tobacco tastes nicer than cigarettes, it contains all the same toxicants known to cause lung cancer and heart disease.
Among the risks are heart disease, respiratory problems, lung and mouth cancer and problems during pregnancy.
‘Smoke from tobacco contains a number of carcinogens which damage the DNA in cells,’ explains Professor West. ‘Just one damaged cell can divide and multiply uncontrollably and quite quickly develop into a large tumour. This is what causes lung cancer,’ explains Professor West
Enthusiasts claim that as the smoke passes through water most of the harmful chemicals are absorbed, however there is no evidence to support this.
‘If people think it’s safer than cigarettes, when it’s not, they need to be informed otherwise,’ said Professor West.
There are other risks. As the mouthpiece is passed around from person to person, this raises the risk of transmitting diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.
The waterpipe has been used to smoke tobacco for centuries, primarily in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
A rise in travel to countries such as Egypt and Turkey has seen the pipe transported to the UK.
The waterpipe is heavily sold as a souvenir, and is popular with tourists who like to take it back home as a gift or decorative object.
The waterpipe can also be purchased in various shops in London for as little as £20, with shisha tobacco costing £5-£10.
The tobacco is burned with charcoal in a bowl that sits above the vessel.
The smoke it produces passes through the water in the container and goes down the pipe so the user can sit by the vessel and an inhale it with their mouth.