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Water Pipes No Safer Than Cigarettes

48 times more smoke inhaled through hookah, research shows

FRIDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Water pipes are no safer than cigarettes for smoking tobacco, researchers say.

A new study found that people who smoke tobacco with a water pipe inhale carbon monoxide and nicotine, which puts them at risk for heart disease and nicotine addiction.

The study included 31 volunteers, aged 18 to 50, who smoked tobacco using a water pipe and a single cigarette. After each smoking session, researchers measured levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the participants' blood, along with heart rate, puff number and puff volume.

On average, participants had higher levels of carbon monoxide after smoking a water pipe than after smoking a cigarette, the study authors found. About 48 times more smoke was inhaled while using a water pipe, compared with smoking a cigarette. Both methods of smoking delivered nicotine into the body.

The findings are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In recent years, smoking tobacco with a water pipe (also called a hookah or shisha) has become increasingly popular in the United States, especially among adults aged 18 to 24. It's widely believed that this method of smoking tobacco is safer than cigarettes.

"The results [of this study] are important because they provide concrete, scientific evidence that contradicts the oft-repeated myth that water pipe tobacco smoking does not involve users inhaling the same harmful chemicals that cigarette smokers do," principal investigator Thomas Eissenberg, a professor in the psychology department at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a university news release.

"We hope that these results will be used by physicians and public health officials to inform water pipe tobacco smokers that they risk tobacco-induced nicotine addiction and cardiovascular disease," he added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hookahs.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, Dec. 2, 2009

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