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More than 56 million Americans take part in a daily habit that exposes them to heavy metal toxins. Despite the fact that this activity doses you with arsenic, cadmium, lead and chromium, about one in five of us apparently can’t stop indulging.
What these folks can’t stop doing is lighting up a cigarette or hookah (water pipe) even though the resulting tobacco smoke exposes them to a long list of toxins.
And scientists who have examined the contents of smoke inhaled through a water pipe or hookah have shown that this way of smoking tobacco is no safer than a normal cigarette.
“Any form of smoking is dangerous, and our studies on toxic metals in hookah smoke are taking the first steps toward the necessary animal and human studies that will establish a clearer picture of the relative dangers of hookah and cigarette smoking,” says researcher Joseph Caruso, Ph.D., who led the study at the University of Cincinnati. “It is very difficult to compare hookah smoking with cigarette smoking because they are done so differently.”
Studies have shown that a typical hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs. The World Health Organization estimates that an hour-long hookah session is equivalent to smoking up to 10 packs of cigarettes. However, many people who smoke shisha (hookah tobacco) smoke less frequently than cigarette smokers.
“All of these things make hookah smoking different from cigarette smoking, and it also makes it difficult to compare the two, which is partly the reason why there are so few studies on the topic,” says researcher Ryan Saadawi.