Stop Smoking

Hookah smoke can contain more toxins than cigarettes

Hookah smoking is far from harmless.
Hookah smoking is far from harmless.

Hookah users inhale high levels of toxic chemicals that endanger the heart and blood vessels.

That's the stark warning in a new American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement.

Impact on heart rate and blood pressure

A single half-hour session of smoking tobacco in a hookah typically exposes the user to more carbon monoxide than a single cigarette. Even short-term exposure to carbon monoxide in the water pipes is toxic and can reduce exercise capacity, according to the statement published in the journal Circulation.

Hookah smoke also contains other potentially harmful chemicals that can affect the heart and blood vessels, authors of the statement said. Those chemicals include nicotine, air pollutants, particulate matter, volatile organic chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, acrolein, lead, cadmium and arsenic. Levels of most are higher in hookah smoke than cigarette smoke.

"Hookah smoke contains harmful substances and the American Heart Association strongly recommends avoiding the use of tobacco in any form," said Aruni Bhatnagar, chairman of the group that wrote the scientific statement. He's director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center.

Hookah smoking addictive

Evidence that hookah smoking has a serious impact on heart rate and blood pressure is mounting, and chronic use has been linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

"Many young people mistakenly believe that smoking tobacco from a hookah is less harmful than cigarette smoking because the tobacco is filtered through water, but there is no scientific evidence that supports that claim," Bhatnagar said in an AHA news release.

"However, there is evidence to suggest that hookah smoking is addictive and can lead to the use of other tobacco products such as cigarettes," he said.

Nearly 5% of high school students and close to 14% of 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States use hookahs, recent surveys suggest. Young adults account for 55% of hookah smokers nationwide.

Hookah use is also associated with an increased likelihood of smoking cigarettes.

Image credit: iStock

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