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Mar 29

Are your kids getting Hooked on Hookah?


Fifty-six cigarettes. That’s what one 45-minute session of smoking hookah—a type of communal waterpipe gaining popularity in North America—feels like to your lungs, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

In the study, researchers examined people as they smoked a hookah for 45 minutes—the length of an average session—and another day when they smoked one cigarette each. Pressure sensors measured how much smoke each person inhaled. (More from Men’s Health: Why Are Men Still Smoking?)

The results? The cigarette-smoking group inhaled 1.1 liter of smoke, while the hookah group inhaled 61.6 liters.

“What concerns me the most is that these were relatively inexperienced hookah smokers,” says Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Behavioral Pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the study. “Hookah tobacco contains the addictive drug nicotine, so users run the risk of getting hooked. The more comfortable users are smoking from the pipe, the more smoke they inhale.” The risks don’t stop there, either: Water pipes are also hosts for viruses like herpes, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, according to a study by Danish researchers.

Conclusions like those run counter to the popular notion that smoking hookah tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes. “There are dramatically more cancer-causing chemicals and carbon monoxide in hookah smoke than there are in cigarette smoke,” Eissenberg says. “When it comes to other toxins cigarettes contain such as tar and heavy metals, hookah may contain more or less. We simply don’t know.”

Even abstaining from a puff or two might not help if you happen to be sitting in the same room as your hookah-smoking buddies. “There is no reason to believe the second-hand effects of hookah smoke,” Eissenberg says, “differ from those of cigarette smoke.”

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