Public Health Officials Warn About The Unrecognized Health Hazards Of Smoking From A Hookah, Reports The Harvard Mental Health Letter
A new fad among college
students and other young people -- smoking from a hookah -- is raising
public health concerns. The centuries-old tradition of smoking from a
hookah, or waterpipe, is widely perceived to be less harmful and addictive
than smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. Yet a number of studies
suggest that hookah smoking may be just as addictive and perhaps even more
harmful because of the way people smoke while using a waterpipe, reports
the March 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
Researchers have found that hookah smokers inhale more often and for
longer periods than typical cigarette smokers. Scientists estimate that by
puffing longer and in greater volume, a waterpipe smoker inhales the
equivalent of 100 cigarettes or more during a single waterpipe session.
Proponents of hookah smoking argue that it isn't necessary to inhale
the smoke into the lungs. Instead they puff as if on a pipe -- and believe
this reduces the health hazards. However, studies indicate that hookah
smokers are absorbing high levels of toxins and carcinogens that may
contribute to heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory disease. And
although some nicotine is filtered through the water contained at the base
of the pipe, scientists conclude that waterpipe smokers are still exposed
to enough nicotine to become addicted.
Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health
Letter, suggests that until more is known about how to help hookah smokers
quit, clinicians and smokers should be aware of the potential dangers.
Harvard Mental Health Letter