(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
by Markham Heid
If you thought smoking hookah was safer than sucking on a cigarette, your logic is a little hazy, finds new research from the University of California, San Francisco.
A small but thorough experiment involving 13 smokers found that while hookah inhalers are exposed to different types of cancer-causing substances than cigarette puffers, the hookah carcinogens are no less dangerous. In particular, the presence of benzene—a compound linked to leukemia—is more than twice as present in hookah smoke than in cigs, according to the research.
That’s not all: Carbon monoxide levels nearly tripled among the hookah smokers compared to cigarette inhalers, the study shows. Why’s that a problem? That extra CO torpedoes your blood’s ability to transport oxygen, which ups your risk for heart attack, stroke, or sudden death if you have any known (or unknown) heart or lung conditions, explains study coauthor Peyton Jacob, Ph.D.
Along with fumes from the charcoal you light to smoke the hookah, you’re also sucking in chemical toxins from the fruit compounds and other scent and flavor additives packed into your hookah tobacco, the study explains.
If you don’t inhale the hookah smoke, Jacob says you’ll absorb fewer toxic substances in your lungs, but your mouth and throat may still be screwed. He compares the effects to cigar smoking, which studies have linked to lip, tongue, mouth, and throat cancers, as opposed to the lung cancers associated with cigarettes.
You already know Jacob’s advice: Stop smoking. Period. If you’re struggling to stop, eat more fruits and vegetables. Both could help you quit smoking and stay tobacco-free for longer, says a 2012 study from the University at Buffalo. Kick your habit while you’re young (before age 44), and you’re likely to live just as long as your pals who never smoked, finds new research in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Source: Mens Health Magazine