We have to admit being more than a little surprised that in this increasingly health-conscious world, Porsche Design has released a new luxury Shisha waterpipe. Also known as a hookah or narghile, Shisha is becoming increasingly trendy in Western markets for "social" tobacco smokers and is already deeply embedded in African and Middle Eastern cultures.
Porsche is one of the strongest, well respected brand names in the world, synonymous not only with uncompromising engineering and innovation, but with the deepest concern and respect for the safety of its customers.
Why then would a company with such an impeccable public image create a product which is known to be so injurious to its users?
Are Porsche's brand custodians asleep, or did they think that as no-one had bothered to complain about its long term sale of Porsche pipes and cigarette lighters, that Shisha was of the same ilk?
In 2005, a World Health Organisation study group on Tobacco Product Regulation issued a scientific advisory note on waterpipe tobacco smoking which highlighted how little is known about waterpipes and the health risks they present, and called for more research on the subject - quite an irony given that the waterpipe has been around 700 years and entered mainstream usage at the same time that tobacco did.
The WHO scientific advisory note emphasized that the smoke that emerges from a waterpipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease, and a range of other diseases, just as cigarette smoke does.
One of the primary issues associated with hookah smoking is that because the smoke is much "smoother" than cigarette smoke, smokers can and do inhale much greater quantities of smoke.
According to the WHO scientific advisory note, a typical waterpipe smoking session will most likely expose the smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than occurs when smoking a cigarette. That's because typical shisha smokers inhale more often and for longer periods than typical cigarette smokers.
Cigarette smokers typically take around eight to twelve 40-75ml puffs during the five to seven minutes it takes to smoke a cigarette, inhaling on average 0.5 to 0.6 liters of smoke per cigarette.
In contrast, waterpipe smoking sessions typically last 20-80 minutes, during which the smoker may take between 50 and 200 puffs which range from about 0.15 liters to one liter each. A shisha smoker might hence inhale as much smoke in one shisha sitting, as a cigarette smoker would inhale in smoking 100 cigarettes.
One of the other key factors associated with shisha smoking is that it is often done at a venue, where the quality of the substances placed inside the pipe, the purity of the charcoal used, and the cleaning of the pipes will all vary considerably depending on the establishment. As narcotics, hashish and marijuana are also commonly used in waterpipes, it is not that uncommon for users of shisha pipes in coffee shops, bars and restaurants where there are illegal back room activities, to get a little bit more punch to their shisha than they bargained for.
One of the saddest things about the shisha culture prevalent in the Middle East and Africa is that waterpipe smoking is a family affair in many countries. Just two nights ago I witnessed a family in a restaurant share a shisha - the father, wife, and two pre-teen boys all smoked from the hookah over a half hour period.
Research indicates that the shisha does not filter out sufficient nicotine to prevent addiction, so the current perception of the waterpipe being a safe way of smoking is no doubt unwittingly addicting children to tobacco. Just how widespread this practice is cannot be established accurately, though anecdotally, it is quite commonplace.
It seems there is a very common misconception amongst those who use the Shisha pipe that it is far less injurious to one's health than cigarette smoking.
Which brings us back to the Porsche Shisha pipe. The 55 centimetre tall aluminum, stainless steel and glass waterpipe is now available exclusively at the recently opened Porsche Design shop in the Millionaires Gallery at Harrods Knightsbridge store in London.
The pipe will be available at Porsche Design stores worldwide from the end of the month at an undisclosed, though no doubt substantial price.
The Porsche Design Shisha shows only discreet branding on the aluminum top of the hookah and comes with a long flexible TecFlex tube, utilizing the same Porsche-designed material employed in its TecFlex writing tools.
I had not been aware until researching this article that Porsche has been making smoking accessories (such as cigarette cases, cigar cases, cigarette lighters and pipes) for many years, but even knowing that, I feel certain that the publicity surrounding this product will change the public's perceptions of the Porsche brand. Shisha smoking is very detrimental to your health.
Does Porsche Design's new Shisha pipe change your opinion of the brand?
We'd be interested to see your opinion in the comments.