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Hookah safety claims go up in smoke
August 14, 2018, 5:18 pm

Marketing claims that hookah smoking is less hazardous than cigarette smoking is just a lot of smoke reveals a new study on the subject.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found that just a half-hour of hookah smoking resulted in the development of cardiovascular risk factors similar to what has been seen with traditional smoking.

Researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, blood nicotine and exhaled carbon monoxide levels in 48 healthy, young hookah smokers before and after 30 minutes of hookah smoking. The study showed that a single session of hookah smoking increased heart rate (by 16 beats per minute) and blood pressure; and significantly increased measures of arterial stiffness, a key risk factor in the development of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack or stroke. The increase in arterial stiffness was comparable to data seen from cigarette smokers after smoking a cigarette.

The new findings challenge the idea put forward by many hookah establishments that flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cigarettes cannot contain any artificial or natural flavors (other than tobacco or menthol), but this prohibition does not apply to hookah.

This probably helps explain the growing popularity for flavored hookah. Studies have shown that as cigarette use continues to decline, hookah smoking is rising, especially among youth and particularly among college students.

Results of the new study are particularly concerning because it measured what appears to be the lower limit of hookah use (half an hour). Typically, a hookah session can last for several hours, potentially increasing the levels of nicotine and other toxins being absorbed in the body.

Stiffening of arteries and the aorta are important signs of progression of hypertension, which raises the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular disorders. Previous studies have shown that cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars and most recently e-cigarettes produce similar rates of arterial stiffening seen in this hookah use study.

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