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New Study Says Water Pipes May Be More Dangerous Than Cigarettes

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Smoking hookah, or water pipes, has long been popular in Middle-Eastern and African countries and the trend for hookah smoking is also getting common in other parts of the world. A recent study suggests that smoking hookah is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

The fifth edition of The Tobacco Atlas was launched at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi recently, which is a book that details the tobacco epidemic in the world including the impact of tobacco on health, poverty, environment and more.

Experts suggest that previously, water pipes were used mainly by older males. Now, hookah smoking is getting popular in younger people between 18 and 24 years, both male and females. Many people believe that water pipe smoking is less harmful than cigarettes. However, smoking hookah can be even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. The Tobacco Atlas reveals that just one puff from a hookah is equivalent to the smoke a person will inhale from a regular cigarette.

"One session of shisha (water pipe) can be equal to smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes in one go, which can be very dangerous," says Edouard Tursan d'Espaignet, a tobacco expert with World Health Organization (WHO).

Health experts are in agreement that smoking tobacco can lead to various medical conditions. Smoking cigarettes are associated with lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other health risks. Similarly, if smoking hookah is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes then a person smoking water pipes are at elevated health risks.

Experts suggest that smoking hookah definitely has adverse effects on an individual's health. However, hookah apparatus also have other problems associated with them. The coal that is used to heat the tobacco in water pipes can also contain toxins, which may harm a person's cardiovascular function, respiratory function and oral activity.

Anti-smoking protestors have called for regulators throughout the world to bring laws to regulate hookah. However, water pipes remain largely unregulated in many countries.

Brazil has taken actions to ban flavorings of hookah that can attract young people. Flavorings usually make it smoother for young hookah smokers, who can tolerate it better than the traditional taste of tobacco.

Regulators in Turkey require hookah apparatus to include warning labels similar to what is found on cigarette packaging.

In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule that would extend the agency's control authority on tobacco products like e-cigarettes and water pipes.

Photo: Preston Rhea | Flickr

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