Hookah smoking is powerful and harmful: Water doesn’t filter carcinogens


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One of the most popular tobacco products for young people is hookah but that doesn’t mean it’s safe, says a top researcher at Ohio State University.

And the idea that smoking marijuana is healthier than smoking tobacco is a lie.

Just one puff of hookah is the equivalent to smoking an entire cigarette. And smoke passing through water doesn’t take out carcinogens or toxicants, says Theodore Wagener Ph.D. director of the Center for Tobacco Research and member of the OSUCCC – James Cancer Control Research Program.

“Hookah is one of the most popular tobacco products among youth and young adults,” said Dr. Wagener, who found that out through surveys. “For one, it’s flavored, and youth and young adults report liking the taste. Two, it’s an incredibly social activity, typically people are smoking with their friends. They can also drink while they are doing it which increases their use of the product.”

Because it’s so enjoyable, people have fooled themselves into thinking that when smoke travels through water before it reaches your mouth, the water filters out carcinogens and toxicants. But this isn’t the case.

“Unfortunately, the water does not filter out toxicants or carcinogens. …It humidifies the smoke and cools it, and makes it easier to inhale…large amounts of smoke.

“So when people take one puff of a hookah, just one puff…the amount of smoke they inhale is the same amount of smoke you would inhale smoking an entire cigarette.”

When researchers compare hookah smoking to cigarette smoke in Middle Eastern societies, the same harms show up: cancer, heart disease, and problems for babies when pregnant women use it.

Another myth among young people is that smoking marijuana isn’t as harmful as smoking tobacco. This simply isn’t true, says Wagener.

“If you smoke marijuana you are inhaling carcinogens and toxicants. If you smoked a lettuce, you would inhale carcinogens and toxicants. The fact that you are burning something and inhaling smoke, you’re inhaling carcinogens and toxicants. Period. End of story.”

Right now, research rules around marijuana, and the new ways it’s being consumed like vaping and edibles, make it difficult to find the absolute harm of marijuana on the human body. Researchers have the same questions about the harm of vaping nicotine.

One thing is clear: Youth should not be using tobacco products.

Dr. Wagener is heading up several research projects covering smoking, vaping, and its effects on children. These projects show that vaping tobacco products, just like smoking, increases lung inflammation and reduces lung function. There are also negative effects on the cardiovascular system, changes in heart rate and increased blood pressure, plus long-term problems like cancer, according to the research.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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