Brain and Body

Hookah Smokers Expose Themselves to 25x More Tar than Cigarette Smokers

January 15, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Black and white photo of a person smoking a hookah
Photo credit: Jesse Millan/flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Smoking hookah could be more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, according to a new study.

Thanks to the tireless anti-cigarette campaigns and nauseating advertising on cigarette packs, people are well aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. However, there’s strong misconceptions about the safety of other smoking alternatives, like hookahs and e-cigarettes.

Now, a new study finds that hookah can expose smokers to much higher concentrations of toxic substances than cigarettes.

Smoking hookah has become increasingly popular in the west over the past few years, and a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine survey found that around a third of college students in the US have smoked hookah. The researchers argue that, “hookah smoking may be attracting many people who would otherwise not have been tobacco users.”

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have published a new report on the dangers of hookah, suggesting that the risks may actually outweigh those of cigarettes.

SEE ALSO: Study Reveals Possible Hidden Danger of Vaping

How? The scientists revealed that in each hookah session, smokers inhale about 125 times the volume of smoke (75 liters or 2,500 fluid ounces) that would be inhaled from a single cigarette. What’s more, hookah smokers expose themselves to approximately 25 times more tar than they would from one cigarette, as well as 2.5 times the amount of nicotine and 10 times the amount of carbon monoxide.

As cigarette tar is associated with lung cancer, this striking statistic is extremely concerning. Plus, carbon monoxide poisoning is no walk in the park either.

The scientists gathered this information by reviewing the data published in over 500 previous studies on the toxicants contained in both hookah and cigarette smoke.

The authors admit that a serious limitation to their study is that it’s very difficult to accurately determine how much smoke a person inhales during a single smoke “session” — for both hookah and cigarette smokers. Smoking patterns widely vary among individuals, and lead author Brian Primack explains that the study cannot provide a “perfect comparison because people smoke cigarettes and hookahs in very different ways.”

Nonetheless, Primack says that hookah smokers are likely exposed to a lot more toxicants than they realize. He hopes these study findings will be used to more closely monitor hookah smoking as well as guide better public health policies.

When it comes to smoking tobacco products, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that there really is no safe alternative to cigarettes.

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