Hubbly bubbly: toil and trouble?

Smoking a hubbly bubbly is a trend that has picked up considerably in the last few years, especially among South African youth.

Also known as hookah pipes, waterpipes, narghiles or shishas, they range in size and colour, can have one pipe or many and there are a wide range of flavoured tobacco to try, from raspberry to chocolate.

Hubblies are also enjoyed for the fact that one can sit in a group and puff on deliciously flavoured tobacco, while passing the pipe around.
Because it is filtered through water, it has always been seen as a lot healthier than the conventional form of smoking.

However, in light of World Tobacco Day on 31 May, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) has released a warning about the dangers of smoking a hubbly bubbly, saying, "It is associated with many of the same risks as smoking and may, in fact, involve some unique health risks."

Gerda Strauss, head of Health Programmes at CANSA, says, "Young people are lead to believe using waterpipes are safe and fun, but they are deadly. We need to educate the population on the serious health risks associated with waterpipe use, to prevent an increase in tobacco related deaths."

Research shows that smoking a hubbly bubbly for one hour is the equivalent of smoking 100 -200 times the volume of smoke compared to a single cigarette. Even though the smoke passes through the water, it still has the toxic elements of normal smoke, such as carbon monoxide, metals and chemicals which cause cancer.

As research continues into the dangers of the hookah, younger and younger people are starting to hit the pipe.

CANSA says: "The popularity of waterpipe smoking appears to be encouraged by the social nature of the activity as well as the unfounded assumptions of relative safety compared to cigarettes. In reality, a waterpipe smoking session may expose the smoker to smoke more over a longer period of time than when smoking a cigarette."

The passing around of the pipe in a communal environment can also increase chances of spreading illnesses such as tuberculosis.

Hubbly bubblys have become so popular in Grahamstown, that liquor stores such as Vineyard Liquors started selling hubbly bubblies, flavoured tobacco and coals last year.

Damian Jattiem, who works at Vineyard Liquors said, "it is a popular market, there are a lot of Rhodes students who come and buy". He also said that the market has grown in the last few years.

The increasing appeal of sharing a hub also led to the opening of a hubbly bubbly lounge, Cow Moon Theory, which has been running ever since 2007.
For only R25 you can hire a hubbly bubbly round, which lasts until the coal on top runs out. Jasmine Schmidtke who manages Cow Moon Theory, said that is a very popular market which has slowly been increasing over the years. She also said, "many different people enjoy it, which is one of the great things about it".

Cow Moon Theory does not let anyone under 18 smoke, however, but she said, "the risks are negliable. There is only 0.5% nicotine and no tar. It would only be harmful if you smoked over a prolonged period of time, then you might get moisture in your lungs."

Rhodes University student, Phillipa Beasely, enjoys lighting up a hub about four times a week. She said, "I think it's dangerous to my health, but a lot better than cigarettes, because there is little nicotine or tar and those sorts of things.
Also because it is filtered through water." She said that if did prove to more dangerous than cigarettes, she would definitely consider stopping.

According the South African Press Association, "in the Middle East, the narghile was traditionally used by elder men, but the youth and women in the region have taken to smoking the hookah in great numbers". It was invented in India in the 16th century and traditionally believed to be harmless because it is filtered through water.

However,  there is no evidence to prove that water makes the smoke harmless. Sapa also says that smoking a water pipe can indeed become addictive.

For more information please contact Gerda Strauss, head of Health Programmes at CANSA on 082 399 7199 or email CANSA also has a toll-free number: 0800 22 66 22

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Rhodes University student Sean Williams blows smoke rings from a hubbly bubbly.
Rhodes University student Sean Williams blows smoke rings from a hubbly bubbly.


Hubbly bubbly

I think the risks of smoking hubbly may be legitimate but living is risky, you could just as well be run over by a car by walking across a busy street or even die from a car accident. Smoking hubbly is fun, I think if done moderately and in a clean environment the risks could be decreased plus these studies done on hubbly don't seem very conclusive to me. Go and have a look at for more hubbly bubbly/hookah related info! Thanks for the informative article.