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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On the Rise: Hookah Pipes & Toxicant Danger

As cigarette-smoking rates fall, there has been a steady rise in the number of people using hookah pipes to smoke tobacco. Hookah smoking is becoming especially popular among teens and young adults.

A hookah is a flexible pipe that enables several users to draw smoke through a chamber of water. In some cases, the tobacco is flavored with molasses, fruit, coffee or coconut to make the taste more desirable. Because of the water element, many people believe that hookah pipes filter chemicals and are “healthier” than cigarettes. The nicotine and chemicals present in hookah pipes is highly addictive, though, and has been linked to heart disease, lung cancer, and gum disease.

A new meta-analysis by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reveals that hookah users are infusing their body with high quantities of toxic substances: about 125 times the smoke, 2.5 times the nicotine, ten times the carbon monoxide, and 25 times the tar contained in a cigarette. These findings will appear in the Jan./Feb. print edition of the Public Health Reports journal, and were based on 17 studies that offered sufficient data for conclusions about toxicants.

“Our results show that hookah tobacco smoking poses real health concerns and that it should be monitored more closely than it is currently,” said Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D. and lead author. Brian is also the assistant vice chancellor for health and society at Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences.

Primack notes that it is tough to directly compare cigarettes and hookahs since they are used differently (i.e. – hookah smokers may only participate in a few sessions per day versus a heavy smoker’s 20+ cigarettes). However, the report findings indicate that hookah smokers are taking in a much higher toxic load than they probably realize. This is a timely topic given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that—for the first time in history—past 30-day hookah tobacco use exceeded that of past 30-day cigarette use among U.S. high school students. 

Story Source:

Journal Reference: Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., et al. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Inhaled Toxicants from Waterpipe and Cigarette Smoking. Public Health Reports, January/February 2016.

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