Editor, PlanetArabia Magazine
Dokha, cigarettes and “arguile” (also known as Shisha) are nicotine delivery devices with various intensities. The three environmentally polluting self-contaminants are increasingly spreading in university campuses throughout Lebanon, supplementing education with harmful carcinogens.
“High blood pressure, heart disease and cancer are some of the harmful effects of intense nicotine inhalation,” says Dr. Motassem Kanj, who specifies in pulmonary medicine. “Dokha is several times more potent than cigarettes, while arguile is more harmful than both dokha and cigarettes put together,” he adds.
Dokha is a legal substance of Iranian and Turkish origin and has been in the Middle East for over 500 years. It consists of barked herbs, aromatic leaves, spices, dried flowers and sometimes fruits. Today, it is pure dokha tobacco. Dokha tobacco is a kind of tobacco only found in the Gulf region in the Middle East and is very high in nicotine. It is not like the hookah tobacco or what Arabs call “Arguile”, where “Moassal” is used. Moassal is a mixture of tobacco, sugar and flavors. Dokha tobacco is harvested, dried and processed, with flavors added.
“There are several kinds of dokha, ranging from warm to cold, and weak to strong. The type that I get is called Gold. It is smooth on the throat and gives a strong buzz.” adds Joseph Saikali, 21-year-old Information Technology and Operations Management (ITOM) student, “I smoke dokha because you don’t chain smoke while smoking it. Between heads you need at least an hour or so to be able to feel the buzz again. I buy dokha from Abu Dhabi because Lebanon does not have good quality dokha.”
Smoking argileh is an extremely popular activity among college students. Arguile coffee shops densely surround university campuses all over Lebanon, and particularly LAU, AUB and other major universities, promoting this harmful device as a preferred pass time for students before, between and after classes.
“Arguile relieves stress and helps me relax while also sitting with my friends.” Mohammed Mardini, 24-year-old Business student explains.
Tamara Razik, 21-year-old Graphic design student at LAU, describes “I started smoking cigarettes not long ago. It gives me a good feeling and helps me get through the day.”
Young arguile, dokha and cigarette smokers rarely pay any attention to their harmful effects, which they do not feel as much as older people. Nevertheless, smoking causes devastating effects to the body of young and old people alike.
The damage caused by arguile and dokha, which far exceed cigarette smoke damage, stems from the fact that both are deeply inhaled with high nicotine intensity. The tobacco and tobacco-like materials used in the two devices, while rich in nicotine, are known for their poor quality.
According to the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), hookah smokers may be at risk for some of diseases common in cigarette smokers. These include oral cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the esophagus, reduced lung function and decreased fertility.
A study conducted by American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) has shown that one head of arguile is equivalent to 17 cigarettes. AUBMC’s report also pointed out that the harm done by arguile far exceeds the effects of the 17 cigarettes, where arguile is consumed in a relatively much shorter time period than the 17 cigarettes.
In addition, another AUBMC study concludes that “smoking argileh produces forty times the volume of smoke as produced by a single cigarette. This is significant because an earlier AUB study in 2005 by Shihadeh and Saleh found that [argileh] smoke likely contains an abundance of several of the chemicals thought to be causal factors in the elevated incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and addiction in cigarette smokers.”