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Hookah Smoking as Tough on Lungs as Cigarettes
Date:1/3/2008

Study finds one-hour session produces as much carbon monoxide as a pack of smokes

THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A leisurely hour of puffs from a hookah -- a kind of tobacco water pipe that's popular among college students -- packs the same carbon monoxide punch as a pack-a-day cigarette habit, a new report claims.

The research only looks at a single toxic gas, making it impossible to directly compare hookah use to the well-known hazards of cigarette smoking. Still, the findings suggest that hookah fans should think twice before lighting that pipe, said study co-author S. Katharine Hammond, chairwoman of the division of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is not the risk-free activity they think it is," Hammond said. "This really isn't safe."

Hookahs, which are similar to the bongs used to smoke marijuana, have grown in popularity in recent years. In college towns and elsewhere, hookah bars have appeared that allow people to smoke the water pipes -- which are legal since tobacco is used -- in a public and social setting.

Users inhale tobacco smoke after it bubbles through water, a process that some people think filters toxins from the tobacco.

One survey suggested that 28 percent of freshmen at a private university had tried hookahs, Hammond said, adding that Chicago alone has dozens of hookah bars.

"This is a worldwide phenomenon," she said. "It's very popular on U.S. college campuses, but most professors are unaware of it."

The new study is the latest research to suggest that hookahs are far from healthy.

Hammond and a student recruited 27 students who smoked water pipes for an hour on three different evenings in April 2006. Another five students didn't smoke the hookahs but stayed in the room with those who did.

The participants abstained from water pipe smoking for 84 hours before taking part in the stud
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