PITTSBURGH (NEWSRADIO 1020 KDKA) — Though it’s often thought of as a “safer” way to smoke tobacco, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has released information that suggests Hookah smoke is full of toxins that could rival cigarettes.
The report shows that compared to smoking one cigarette, someone who smokes from a hookah pipe for anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes could be exposed to about 25 times the amount of tar, 2 to 3 times the amount of nicotine, 10 times the amount of carbon monoxide, and as much as 125 times the amount of smoke.
Cigarettes come 20 to a pack, so based on the study’s findings, more toxins are being consumed by somebody smoking hookah for about an hour than somebody who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.
“A lot of people perceive it as a safe alternative to cigarette smoking,” says Dr. Brian Primack M.D., Ph. D, the lead author of the study, as well as the assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences.
Hookah smoking is often communal, with as many as four people sharing from one hose. According to Dr. Primack, if more people are smoking from the pipe, it could be worsening the health effects.
“It would seem that it would be like sharing a pizza, where if there are four people sharing a hookah, [they] would only get one fourth of what they would normally get,” Dr. Primack tells KDKA Radio. “Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the way that it works.”
He says studies indicate that more oxygen being pulled through the Hookah bowl could be causing the release of more toxins.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in recent years, smoking Hookah is becoming more popular among young people, with more U.S. high school students saying they smoked Hookah than cigarettes within a 30 day window.
“It’s much more palatable, it’s easier,” says Dr. Primack, referring to Hookah’s appeal.
The process of smoking from a Hookah pipe starts with a hot coal, which is placed over tin foil that heats up dense and often flavored tobacco. The smoke then travels down a stem into a bowl, where it is pulled upwards through water and then through a hose to the consumer. Hookah pipes are also known as “Water Pipes.”
The UPMC findings are scheduled for the January/February print issue of the journal “Public Health Reports.” They are compiled from previously published data.