Hookah Habit Not So Cool, New Research

2013-04-20 07:04

Hookah use is up among young people while cigarette smoking is down. What should you know about hookah use and its health impact?

(Updated November 17, 2013) A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that while cigarette smoking is down among young people, hookah and electronic cigarette smoking is up. The CDC evaluated data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey and reported that hookah use (at least once a month) among high school students was 5.4 percent, an increase from 4.1 percent in 2011.

If you smoke tobacco using a water pipe known as a hookah, the habit may look cool, but looks are deceiving. Researchers found that young adults who engage in the hookah habit are exposing themselves to an array of dangerous toxins.

What a hookah has that cigarettes don’t

A hookah is a water pipe that uses charcoal to heat and burn specially treated and flavored tobacco. The hookah habit is especially popular among the college aged crowd, as a previous study noted that 17.4 percent of surveyed students said they actively used hookahs.

A hookah consists of a chamber for smoke, a bowl that holds tobacco, a pipe, and a hose. Tobaccos burned in hookah are soaked in flavorings, such as mint or chocolate. When you inhale the flavored smoke through the mouthpiece and hose, the smoke is cooled by water, which makes it less irritating than cigarette smoke.

But less irritating does not mean less dangerous. In a new study conducted at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), investigators measured the amount of chemicals in the urine and blood of 8 male and 5 female hookah smokers who also had experience smoking cigarettes.

The volunteers participated in a number of comparative tests consisting of either an average of three hookah sessions or smoking 11 cigarettes per day, but on different days. Here’s what the investigators found when they evaluated the urine and blood samples.


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