National Institutes of Health confirms hookah is harmful for health

Despite its popularity among young people, hookah smoking has been determined as harmful to one’s health, according to the March-April Global Health Matters newsletter produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Hookah smoking enables users to inhale enough tobacco through its pipe per session to equal one cigarette. Hookah smoke also contains more carbon-dioxide and three to five times more aldehydes than cigarettes, according to the NIH newsletter.

Aldeyde is an organic chemical compound and Benzene is a colorless toxic carcinogen liquid. The NIH states aldeydes cause pulmonary diseases and Benzene, a contributor to leukemia, is also concentrated in hookah smoke.

Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean and professor of the School of Public Health, said firsthand and secondhand hookah smoke is no different than cigarette smoke.

“If anything, there is more volume of it that you inhale more of it,” Eriksen said. “Secondhand hookah smoke is the same as secondhand cigarette smoke. It contains carcinogens and it can cause harm based the amount of exposure. The more exposed you are to secondhand smoke the greater the risk.”

The ability for individuals to consume food and beverages while smoking hookah in restaurants has caused a trend, according to Eriksen.

“I think part of it is that it’s allowed and that it’s common place. Then people must think its okay,” he said. “But it’s nothing to be farther from the truth.”

Eriksen also said hookah use should be monitored and restricted with the same laws applied to cigarettes.

“I think I am somewhat disappointed that hookah is not being treated like cigarettes in that there are laws on the books in Georgia in every state restricting smoking in restaurants and other places,” he said. “The same rules should be applied to hookah. There’s no difference and people want to smoke hookahs in their homes and outdoors. That’s a different issue than smoking it in an enclosed space where nonsmokers are going to get exposed.”

Pamela Redmon, administrative director of Georgia State’s Tobacco Centers for Regulatory Science, said there’s a need to increase the understanding of hookah’s harms.

“A 2011 study showed that 46 percent of students believed that hookah is less addictive and safer that cigarettes and 33 percent believed that hookah had less nicotine, no nicotine or was generally less addictive,” Redmon said in an email.

Redmon also said hookah smokers are at risk for the same diseases caused by cigarettes.

“Research has shown that a single episode of waterpipe use is associated with 1.7 times the nicotine, 6.5 times the carbon monoxide and 46.4 times the tar when compared to cigarette smoking…,” Redmon said.

Nastassia Bahdanovich, a senior business economics major, is a regular hookah smoker.

“I gave up smoking cigarettes. So now I just smoke hookah like once a week and pretty regularly,” Bahdanovich said. “Some friends tell me its bad but I don’t think so. I never smoked cigarettes regularly but when I did I would not feel that great the next day. And with hookah there is never an aftertaste. It kind of gives you a little buzz.”

Bahdanovich said she’s worried of the health concerns and effects but will continue to smoke for relaxation purposes.

“I think there would have to be serious studies done to get students scared,” she said.