Think smoking hubbly bubbly is less harmful than a cigarette? Think again.Smoking hubbly, also known as a hookah, is more dangerous than smoking a normal cigarette, so say experts.Hubbly bubbly has become a fashion accessory, and young people in particular are often seen smoking the water pipes at social events. Experts told Weekend Witness that several clinical studies have shown that smoking a water pipe may expose the smoker to more smoke — and its harmful effects — over a longer and more intense period of time than smoking a cigarette. A study done by the World Health Organisation found that cigarette smokers take between eight and 12 puffs within five to seven minutes when smoking, and during that process inhale 0,5 to 0,6 litres of smoke. A hubbly smoker may take between 50 and 200 puffs a session, and inhalation can be between 0,15 to one litre of smoke, which is equivalent to smoking 100 or more cigarettes at a time. The findings also revealed that a hubbly contains about 36 times more tar and about eight times more carbon monoxide than the smoke from a single cigarette.Local health experts have therefore cautioned against the use of hookahs, among smokers and non-smokers alike, particularly young people. Professor Guy Richards, a pulmonologist and head of critical care at the faculty of health sciences at Wits University, said: “Hookahs burn tobacco, which is a noxious agent. There is no filtration effect and, as such, they are particularly harmful, causing all the same diseases as cigarettes, only more so.”Professor Andre van Zyl warned that children as young as eight to people of 24 years are most at risk from the dangers of the pipes. “It is more dangerous than cigarettes. People inhale the smoke deeper because it has soothing flavoured tobacco,” he said.He added that because hubbly bubblies are smoked for longer periods, poisons equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes can be inhaled. “It is also incorrectly assumed that the water filters out dangerous elements.“Young people using the water pipes are exposed to a greater risk of mouth and throat cancer,” he said.The Medical Research Council has found that because the hookah pipe is shared, it could be a major contributor in the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and oral herpes. “We need to sit up and take notice of these facts, to disabuse people of the notion that hookah smoking is safe,” said Van Zyl.“American researchers have called this the second global tobacco epidemic since the cigarette, so we need to push the health message much harder if we’re to reverse the hookah smoking trend in SA. The PR around hookah smoking gives the impression that it is pleasant, socially attractive and harmless. “I’ve even seen shisha tobacco being sold in sweet shops. But the fact is that it is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking. And parents should do something about it,” Van Zyl added.