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The issue: Health risks of hookah smoking

Publication Date: 2012-01-28
  • Author:Alex Ferri
  • Publication:AZ Central - Arizona Republic

Who said it: Kimberly Yee, state representative

What we're looking at
State Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that smoking a hookah for an hour is as dangerous as smoking 100 or more cigarettes.

The comment
"One hour of hookah inhalation is equal to smoking 100 to 200 cigarettes in that hour."

The forum
She made the statement during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 12.

Yee is the sponsor of House Bill 2034, which would make it illegal for minors to possess a water pipe, also known as a hookah. It's already illegal for minors to smoke tobacco, but Yee’s bill would impose a $100 fine or 30 hours of community service on any minor found with a hookah.

The bill also would make it illegal to sell a water pipe to a minor.

Studies by leading scientific health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, verify Yee’s assertion that people smoking a hookah inhale far more smoke than they would smoking a cigarette.

According to a WHO report, a person smoking a hookah takes in deeper and longer puffs of smoke than a person smoking a cigarette. The report cited several studies that measured these amounts in controlled environments.

Because a typical hookah session can last up to an hour, according to the report, a person can inhale as much smoke in one hookah session as is contained in 100 to 200 cigarettes.

According to the same report, although the water used in the base of a hookah pipes filters out some of the tobacco’s nicotine, hookah smoke still contains enough nicotine to cause addiction. Additionally, because people tend to smoke cigarettes only long enough to satisfy nicotine cravings, the reduced amount of nicotine in hookah smoke can actually cause hookah users to take in even more smoke to obtain the necessary amount of nicotine.

Although many find hookah tobacco more appealing than cigarettes because of its sweet flavors, studies have shown it is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, as hookah smoke contains many of the same dangerous chemicals that cigarette smoke does, according to a CDC fact sheet.

The fact sheet also states that the charcoal burnt in hookah smoking contains additional dangerous substances, like carbon monoxide and various metals, that are not filtered out by the water in the pipe.

Bottom line: Several reports confirm that during one hour of hookah smoking, a person can inhale 100 to 200 times as much smoke as is contained in a single cigarette. While some have criticized these studies, they are still the most current and reputable resource on the subject.

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