With cigarette smoking declining in popularity in several parts of the world, many products have been marketed as a safer alternative, including hookahs. Likewise, the tobacco smoked with these pipes is said to come with fewer carcinogens than the tobacco used in cigarettes. A new study, however, suggests that hookah smoking isn’t as safe as it’s often hyped up to be, as even a comparatively short 30-minute session could pose risks to your cardiovascular system.
In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles sought to determine the risk hookah smoking poses to the cardiovascular system. The team recruited 48 young adults aged 18 to 34 and measured a number of metrics, including heart rate, blood pressure, blood nicotine levels, exhaled carbon dioxide levels, and arterial stiffness. As a typical hookah session could take as long as several hours, the researchers then compared the participants’ metrics before and after 30 minutes of hookah smoking.
As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the half-hour hookah session resulted in an uptick in multiple risk factors, as the participants’ blood pressure increased, with their heart rates also increasing by an average of 16 beats per minute. The UCLA team also found higher levels of arterial stiffness, a condition that is considered a “key risk factor” in determining the chances of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events. According to the researchers, the increase in arterial stiffness was so pronounced that it was similar to that of cigarette smokers.
Here you have it… your hookah question finally answered.
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In a statement, study co-author Mary Rezk-Hanna stressed that her team’s findings challenge the idea that hookah smoking, which typically involves sweet, fruity tobacco, is a safer alternative to cigarettes. She added that the results are especially timely, as young people, particularly college students, are increasingly attracted to the practice.
“We know that flavored tobacco products are frequently the first kind of tobacco product used by youth. 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.”
The researchers also expressed concern over the length of hookah sessions, as there’s a chance extended exposure to hookah smoke could increase the levels of nicotine and other toxins the body absorbs.
Hookah smoking isn’t just increasing in popularity in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, according to a separate report from the Daily Mail, which cited a British Medical Journal study from earlier in the year that said about 10 percent of U.K. teens are believed to be hookah smokers.
Going forward, the researchers are reportedly planning to launch further studies and make additional comparisons between the effects of cigarette and hookah smoking.