New research has found that smoking tobacco from hookahs, the traditionally Middle-Eastern pipes that involve drawing tobacco smoke through water before being inhaled, causes the user to inhale a much larger amount of toxins than from cigarettes.
The meta-analysis, funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, was led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The team narrowed down 542 previously published articles related to cigarette and hookah smoking to 17 studies which contained enough reliable and sufficient data to analyze the toxins inhaled during both forms of smoking.
From this analysis the team found that when comparing one hookah session with one cigarette, more harmful toxins are present during the hookah session, with the user inhaling 125 times the smoke, 25 times the tar, 2.5 times the nicotine and 10 times the carbon monoxide in comparison.
"The user [inhales] 125 times the smoke, 25 times the tar, 2.5 times the nicotine and 10 times the carbon monoxide" — when comparing a hookah session with one cigarette
Lead author Brian A. Primack acknowledged that it is difficult to compare the two forms of smoking and make a conclusion as to which poses the greater health risk, as what researchers refer to as frequent users could mean an individual who smokes for example 20 cigarettes a day or someone who participates in a few hookah sessions on a daily basis.
"It's not a perfect comparison because people smoke cigarettes and hookahs in very different ways," said Dr. Primack. "We had to conduct the analysis this way -- comparing a single hookah session to a single cigarette -- because that's the way the underlying studies tend to report findings. So, the estimates we found cannot tell us exactly what is ‘worse.'"
However Dr. Primack did comment that these results still show the potential dangers of hookah smoking, which he believes many are unaware of, and called for it to be monitored more closely.
The results of the study will be published in the January/February print issue of the journal Public Health Reports.
The use of hookahs is currently on rise among U.S. high school students. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control reported in April 2015 that, when measuring the levels of both forms of smoking amongst high school students over a 30-day period, levels of hookah tobacco use were higher than levels of cigarette use.