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Are Hookah Pipes Dangerous or Decor Items?

Updated on December 11, 2015
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Introduction

Hookahs have been around for hundreds of years in many cultures. It's probably the fact that they originated in the Far East that makes me love the look and the shape of these objects.

I first came across them when I had the most wonderful vacation in Morocco. This was many, many years ago. I won't say exactly how many, but suffice it to say that this was the hippie era and anything with Far Eastern, Indian, or North African styling was incredibly popular.

The hookahs I remember seeing in the souks of Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fez were mainly wonderful concoctions of brass or silver which had been beautifully engraved, plus there were fabulous, coloured glass options too.

My mum though, who didn't quite trust Morocco, was certain though that these wonderful hookahs were used exclusively for smoking kif (marijuana). She didn't mind that I was spending my hard-earned money on an afghan coat, an embroidered top, and a splendid tooled leather bag (all at bargain prices) but she drew the line when I wanted to buy a hookah.

Are hookah pipes an important part of history? Or are they a dangerous avenue to drug use? Read on to learn more.

(I also find them rather romantic.)

Part of the Culture

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As you can see from this wonderful image above, hookahs were used by both men and women. The tobacco they used was called shisha, which is a mix that includes molasses.

In some countries, the sight of someone using a hookah is as normal as seeing someone smoke a cigarette or cigar.

The difference is that the tobacco is filtered through water within the device itself. Does that make using it less harmful than other tobacco products?

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Hookah itself, of course, is just an object. So it depends on what you use it for. Medical experts say that smoking tobacco carries the same health risks, no matter what sort of vessel you use.

The same applies if you're using it as a bong to smoke marijuana. The device itself makes no difference, according to experts.

Also, of course, you can use it simply as décor in your home (they are very gorgeous), or use herbal smoking products. These aren't remotely like the old-style 'herbal cigarettes' of years ago and can help if you're giving up the real thing.

Drug Paraphernalia?

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So you see, I don't agree with my mum who thinks that owning one is just a step away from smoking illegal substances. I think they are beautiful and traditional objects.

As with many decorative objects, they are not harmful themselves, but it's their usage that counts. Look how many castles and stately homes have weapons from the past on display. These are historical objects. No one is suggesting that they might lead to violence.

It would be a shame if these traditional and rather beautiful items were no longer available simply because they have been misused by a tiny minority.

Although it's unknown where these items exactly originated, it is often believe that the idea of the hookah was born in India. Today, they are is a standard form of decoration in Indian businesses in the UK, notably restaurants.

Have You Ever Used One?

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The first recorded use was in the sixteenth century. Since then, it has often been depicted in various art forms. See the image below.

The richness of the colours and the designs of the fabric bring an atmospheric motif into the painting.

This is not only another era, it appears to be another world.

In Art

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Gerome
Gerome | Source

In nineteenth century Europe, particularly in France, painters became fascinated by the art and design of the East. Many travelled to places, such as Egypt and North Africa, in order to study and to record the rich designs and the mysterious and romantic towns, cities, and people.

An example was Jean-Léon Gérôme. You can see a crop from one of his paintings on the right. This is a bathing scene from a harem and you can see that the seated lady has a hookah.

The painting below shows another example from this genre. Eugene Delacroix's painting displays one being used, also. Delacroix was regarded as the leader of the French romantic school of painting and the example below is indicative of that appellation.

As you can imagine, the European public hugely appreciated this glimpse into life in other lands. The culture of the areas — the design work and the society — differed so much from their own and décor items in this style became popular throughout European countries, embracing items such as china, lighting, wall coverings, and of course, wall art.

Eugene Delacroix's Angiers
Eugene Delacroix's Angiers | Source

Personal Photographs

Below are some personal photos of mine.

Marrakesh

My little brother and my mum in the souk at Marrakesh, many many years ago. See that look on my mum's face? She really didn't approve.
My little brother and my mum in the souk at Marrakesh, many many years ago. See that look on my mum's face? She really didn't approve. | Source

Fez

One of my favourite photographs. Me, the young hippie, on a camel.
One of my favourite photographs. Me, the young hippie, on a camel. | Source

Have you ever used a hookah pipe?

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© 2014 Jackie Jackson

Comments

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    • profile image

      Betty 

      11 months ago

      I have seen it used before and believe it is a good way to get a bad respiratory infection as well as hepatitis . The tubes are difficult to thoroughly clean and tend to harbor bacteria , fungus and other culprits to cause infectious diseases. Not to mention people who share other people's mouth pieces . Yukkkk !!!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Blair - I agree wholeheartedly. It's such a shame when such beautiful objects are considered 'illegal'.

    • profile image

      Blair 

      4 years ago

      I own my own hookah pipe and use it several times weekly. It is a beautiful piece so I keep it out in my living room to display when not in use. I've heard stories of putting marijuana in the bowl or alcohol in the base but have never considered putting anything other than shisha water in it, myself. Personally, I prefer not to mix substances too much i.e. hookah, alcohol, marijuana (it's legalized for residential use in my state), etc. Regardless of how it's used, it's a personal choice and, when in the safety of your own home, isn't really for anyone to tell you what to do with it.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Nancy,I think they are lovely décor objects too. Lots of people do enjoy using them - there are several hookah bars locally.One is called 'Off the Hookah' which I've always liked :)

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Good work britflorida. Anything can be corrupted and used for something other than what it's intended for, if someone wants to do it. My grandson smokes Hookah occasionally, enjoys it with his friends. It's not something I'd ever consider, other than as a decorative object.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      You should see the beautiful hookahs for sale in the grocery store/deli/fancy tobacco store across the street from my apartment! I've been too shy to ask permission to photograph them but I've been trying to psych myself up to it every time I go in there to buy groceries. There are some made of glass in patterns and colors with artistic blown glass embellishments and multiple hoses and tips that look like they belong in an art museum. I imagine the variety and artistry you saw on your trip was astounding. I think they are no more dangerous than any other pipe and at least somewhat less dangerous than cigarettes because they don't use heavily processed or extremely chemically "enhanced" tobacco and people likely don't smoke the equivalent of two packs a day using them.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      4 years ago from Europe

      They can be beautiful objects, although the growth of hookah "bars" in my neighbourhood as an alternative to alcohol bars and coffee shops has encouraged some otherwise clean living folk to take up smoking too fit in, much as younger kids did when I was at school.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @DeborahDian: I just see them as décor items :) After all, anyone can walk into a 7-Eleven and buy cigarettes but they don't unless they are smokers. If someone owns hookah, I imagine they would only use it for illegal substances if they were into it already.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 

      4 years ago from Orange County, California

      I think they are gorgeous ... but they could be a temptation to some people, I suppose.

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