Hookah smoking raises cardiovascular risk comparable to traditional cigarette smoking
In direct contradiction to marketing efforts claiming that hookah (water pipe) smoking is less hazardous to health than cigarettes, a new UCLA study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that just a half-hour of hookah smoking resulted in the development of cardiovascular risk factors similar to what has been seen with traditional cigarette smoking.
Researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, blood nicotine and exhaled carbon monoxide levels in 48 healthy, young hookah smokers before and after 30 minutes of hookah smoking. The study showed that a single session of hookah smoking increased heart rate (by 16 beats per minute) and blood pressure; and significantly increased measures of arterial stiffness, a key risk factor in the development of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack or stroke. The increase in arterial stiffness was comparable to data seen from cigarette smokers after smoking a cigarette.
“Our findings challenge the concept that fruit-flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier tobacco alternative. It is not,” said Mary Rezk-Hanna, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and lead author of the study.
Results of the study are particularly concerning because it measured what appears to be the lower limit of hookah use (half an hour). Typically, a hookah session can last for several hours, potentially increasing the levels of nicotine and other toxins being absorbed in the body.
Stiffening of arteries and the aorta are important signs of progression of hypertension, which raises the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular disorders. Previous studies have shown that cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars and most recently e-cigarettes produce similar rates of arterial stiffening seen in this hookah use study.
However, hookah smoking remains more popular, due to marketing efforts as well as social trends. In previous UCLA studies by Rezk-Hanna, when participants were asked why hookah smoking was more attractive than cigarette smoking, 48 percent of them replied that it was because of the fruity flavors and smells.