Researchers from the University of California San Francisco revealed that although many chemicals in hookah smoke differ from the ones produced by the cigarettes, it does not mean that smoking “shisha” is any less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
"We report for the first time that toxicant exposures from water-pipe and cigarette smoking differed in pattern, with higher exposure to some toxicants like carbon monoxide and benzene in water-pipe smokers," he said.
"People want to know if it is a lesser health risk if they switch from cigarettes to smoking a water pipe on a daily basis," said Jacob.
"We found that water-pipe smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, nor is it likely to be an effective harm reduction strategy."
The research was performed as a randomized study of 13 healthy individuals. Their levels of exposure to several tobacco chemicals were studied.
Researchers stipulated that since different people excrete various amounts of many chemicals even if they consume or inhale the same quantities, the study had a “cross-over” design.
The same individual smoked water-pipe and then cigarettes by turn in the four-day sessions.
On average, participants smoked 11 cigarettes or three hookah sessions per day. At the end of the day as well as during the smoking sessions, the levels of chemicals were measured in their urine, blood and breath.
While smoking of water-pipe resulted in half the amount of total nicotine compared to cigarette smoking, hookah smoking exposed participants to significantly higher levels of carbon monoxide, which is especially dangerous for people with heart risks, and benzene, which has been higher leukemia risk, compared to cigarette smoking.
Researchers found that the total amount of carbon monoxide in the breath measured during a 24-hour period was more than 2.5 times higher than while smoking cigarettes.
Carbon monoxide exposure increases a person's risk for acute events such as a heart attack, stroke or sudden death in people who have cardiovascular or lung diseases.
After analysing urine samples, researchers found that the amount of a metabolite of benzene in the urine of hookah smokers was twice the amount of levels detected in cigarette smokers.
Researchers found that other toxins participants inhaled when smoking hookah include acrolein (which can irritate the eyes, throat and nose), naphthalene (which can damage red blood cells), and acrylamide, (linked to nervous system damage).
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