Even light hookah use may cause airway problems

April 13, 2016 by Don Rauf, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Some people believe smoking from a hookah is safe because smoke passes through water before being inhaled. But, a new study found that hookah smoking may actually be more dangerous than cigarettes.

The study found that young adults who are considered light hookah users have noticeable changes in the cells lining their airways.

"With hookah, smoking a bowl is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes," said study leader Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the department of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

"When you talk to the hookah smokers, however, there's a general belief that it is safer than cigarette smoking. We looked at the airways, lower respiratory tract, and in the blood vessels and found biologic abnormalities in all of those who smoked hookah," he said.

"Our conclusion is pretty obvious that there may be risk to smoking hookah, and this deserves real attention," Crystal said.

Findings from the study were published online recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

A hookah is a large water pipe that uses charcoal to heat tobacco, which may be sweetened or flavored, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The charcoal may add to the health risks, the CDC says.

The American Lung Association says that more people are smoking hookahs nationwide, especially urban youth, college students and young professionals. The devices are often used in cafes or bars dedicated to .

The study authors recruited 21 people who had been using a hookah for fewer than five years. These participants reported smoking about three bowls a week. The researchers compared the smokers to a control group of 19 nonsmokers. The average age of the study participants was 24.

Investigators took cell samples from the airways of the study volunteers. This procedure involves inserting a small tube into the lung and using a fine brush to gather the cells. Doctors then looked for changes in the cells.

In addition to noting changes in the lung lining's cells, Crystal and his colleagues found that carbon monoxide levels in the blood were elevated in hookah users. The study authors said that one session with a hookah pipe seemed to expose the user to seven to 11 times more carbon monoxide compared to one cigarette.

Also compared to one cigarette, one hookah session gave the smoker two to four times the amount of nicotine, 100 times more tar, and 17 times the amount of formaldehyde, the study authors said.

Hookah users reported coughing more and bringing up more mucus compared to nonsmokers. Hookah smokers also scored lower on tests that measured lung function, the investigators found.

Crystal stressed that although this was a small study, the results were "convincing," and underscored the need for larger studies. At this time, there are no regulations pertaining to the use of hookahs. If bigger investigations confirm that hookah smoking poses a significant risk, Crystal believes regulatory measures should be considered.

"If more research is convincing, as I think it will be, I think having some type of health warning in a hookah bar as on cigarettes is very rational," he said. Other regulations might pertain to age restrictions and policies regarding hookah smoking in public, according to Crystal.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs with the American Lung Association, said, "The American Lung Association has not taken an official policy stance on regulation of hookahs, but I personally think we ought to regulate them as tobacco products similar to cigarettes."

Edelman added that while this is "an excellent study showing both functional and cellular abnormalities from one hookah session," further research is needed to determine the effects of use on health.

Explore further: One hookah tobacco smoking session delivers 25 times the tar of a single cigarette

More information: Find out more about the health effects of hookah smoking from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

One hookah tobacco smoking session delivers 25 times the tar of a single cigarette

January 11, 2016
As cigarette smoking rates fall, more people are smoking tobacco from hookahs—communal pipes that enable users to draw tobacco smoke through water. A new meta-analysis led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine ...

Hookahs deliver toxic benzene in every puff, study shows

November 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—Many young people consider hookahs a hip and safer way to smoke, but a new study finds fumes from the water pipes contain the toxin benzene.

Hookah tobacco smoking seems to be increasing in both prevalence and frequency

September 15, 2015
Nearly 1 in 5 recently surveyed high school seniors report having smoked tobacco from a hookah in the past year, and more than a third of them reported smoking hookahs often enough to be considered regular users, an analysis ...

Secondhand smoke hazardous to hookah bar workers

January 25, 2016
Workers at New York City hookah bars are inhaling hazardous levels of carbon monoxide and nicotine while at work, signaling yet another breach by their employers of New York City's anti-smoking bylaws.

Students swayed by 'relaxing, fun' image of hookah smoking ignore health harms

May 20, 2014
Educational campaigns meant to dissuade college students from initiating hookah tobacco smoking may be more successful if they combat positive perceptions of hookah use as attractive and romantic, rather than focusing solely ...

College students believe hookah safer alternative to cigarette smoking

December 11, 2014
Despite emerging evidence otherwise, many college students consider hookah smoking safer than smoking cigarettes, reports a University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health study published this month by the Centers ...

Recommended for you

How to survive on 'Game of Thrones': Switch allegiances

December 9, 2018
Characters in the Game of Thrones TV series are more likely to die if they do not switch allegiance, and are male, according to an article published in the open access journal Injury Epidemiology.

Expert calls for strong, sustainable action to make world roadways safer

December 7, 2018
According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report on road safety, more than 1.3 million people die on the world's roadways each year—and millions more are injured or disabled. Yet despite the huge cost to families ...

Hazelnuts improve older adults' micronutrient levels

December 6, 2018
Older adults who added hazelnuts to their diet for a few months significantly improved their levels of two key micronutrients, new research at Oregon State University indicates.

Regular bedtimes and sufficient sleep for children may lead to healthier teens

December 6, 2018
Having a regular, age-appropriate bedtime and getting sufficient sleep from early childhood may be important for healthy body weight in adolescence, according to researchers at Penn State.

Stress from using electronic health records is linked to physician burnout

December 5, 2018
While electronic health records (EHRs) improve communication and access to patient data, researchers found that stress from using EHRs is associated with burnout, particularly for primary care doctors such as pediatricians, ...

Chemicals in personal care and household products linked to earlier puberty in girls

December 4, 2018
Chemicals that are widely used in personal care and household products are linked to girls entering puberty at earlier ages, according to findings from a long-running study of mothers and children published today.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.