Hookah smoking raises cardiovascular risk comparable to traditional cigarette smoking, study finds

August 3, 2018 by Andrew Porterfield, University of California, Los Angeles
“Our findings challenge the concept that fruit-flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier tobacco alternative. It is not,” said Mary Rezk-Hanna, the study's lead author. Credit: Jan Kromer/Flickr

In direct contradiction to marketing efforts claiming that hookah (water pipe) smoking is less hazardous to health than cigarettes, a new UCLA study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that just a half-hour of hookah smoking resulted in the development of cardiovascular risk factors similar to what has been seen with traditional cigarette smoking.

Researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, blood nicotine and exhaled carbon monoxide levels in 48 healthy, young smokers before and after 30 minutes of . The study showed that a single session of hookah smoking increased heart rate (by 16 beats per minute) and blood pressure; and significantly increased measures of arterial stiffness, a key risk factor in the development of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack or stroke. The increase in was comparable to data seen from cigarette smokers after smoking a cigarette.

"Our findings challenge the concept that fruit-flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier tobacco alternative. It is not," said Mary Rezk-Hanna, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and lead author of the study.

This study is believed to be the first to investigate the effects of hookah smoking on stiffening of the arteries. Studies have shown that as cigarette use continues to decline, hookah smoking is rising, especially among youth and particularly among college students.

"We know that flavored tobacco products are frequently the first kind of tobacco product used by youth," Rezk-Hanna said. "One of the major issues with hookah is the fact that the tobacco is flavored with fruit, candy and alcohol flavors, making hookah the most popular flavored tobacco product among this audience."

According to the Food and Drug Administration, under authority granted by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, cigarettes cannot contain an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice that is a characterizing flavor. But this prohibition does not apply to hookah, contributing to its rapidly growing popularity.

There are more than 2,000 shops in California that sell hookah tobacco and related products, in addition to 175 hookah lounges and cafes. A disproportionate number of these facilities are in Los Angeles, near universities and colleges. National data show that among adults ages 18 to24, 18.2 percent report hookah use, compared to 19.6 percent who use cigarettes and 8.9 percent who use e-cigarettes.

Results of the study are particularly concerning because it measured what appears to be the lower limit of hookah use (half an hour). Typically, a hookah session can last for several hours, potentially increasing the levels of nicotine and other toxins being absorbed in the body.

Stiffening of arteries and the aorta are important signs of progression of hypertension, which raises the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular disorders. Previous studies have shown that cigarettes, smokeless , cigars and most recently e-cigarettes produce similar rates of arterial stiffening seen in this hookah use study.

However, hookah smoking remains more popular, due to marketing efforts as well as social trends. In previous UCLA studies by Rezk-Hanna, when participants were asked why hookah smoking was more attractive than cigarette , 48 percent of them replied that it was because of the fruity flavors and smells.

Explore further: About 10 percent of youth report smoking hookah

More information: Mary Rezk-Hanna et al. Acute Effect of Hookah Smoking on Arterial Stiffness and Wave Reflections in Adults Aged 18 to 34 Years of Age, The American Journal of Cardiology (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2018.05.033

Related Stories

About 10 percent of youth report smoking hookah

July 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—About 10 percent of youth report smoking hookah, with smoking mainly occurring in the home environment, according to a study published online July 2 in Pediatrics.

Hookah responsible for over half of tobacco smoke inhaled by young smokers

May 17, 2018
Smoking tobacco from a waterpipe, also known as a hookah, accounted for over half of the tobacco smoke volume consumed by young adult hookah and cigarette smokers in the U.S., a new University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine ...

Harmful hookahs: Many young smokers aren't aware of the danger

July 8, 2014
Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that hookah smoking can be just as dangerous as cigarettes, many young adults believe that using the water pipes is not harmful to their health, according ...

Non-cigarette tobacco use tied to future cigarette use in teens

January 4, 2018
(HealthDay)—Non-cigarette tobacco use is associated with subsequent cigarette smoking among U.S. adolescents, according to a study published online Jan. 2 in JAMA Pediatrics.

#Hookahlife: Social media posts spread misleading information on hookah use

June 28, 2018
A new study finds that Instagram users using #hookah or #shisha portray hookah use in an overwhelmingly positive manner, despite its serious health risks. Published in Health Education & Behavior, the study authors examined ...

Researchers alarmed at rise in hookah use among California youth

August 19, 2011
Hookah use among California youth ages 18 to 24 is rising rapidly according to a study conducted by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. The study appears in the "First Look" online version ...

Recommended for you

As body mass index increases, blood pressure may as well

August 17, 2018
Body mass index is positively associated with blood pressure, according to the ongoing study of 1.7 million Chinese men and women being conducted by researchers at the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) ...

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

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.