Smoking is injurious to health; this is a fact tried and tested many times. For people who could not let go of this addiction, hookah was an alternative that they thought would provide them the gratification and would not be as injurious. This belief became popular because in hookah the smoke is filtered through water before it reaches the mouth of the person smoking it. This claim, however, was challenged and proved wrong.
Nada Kassem who is an associate director at the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University explained why hookah was so injurious to health: “Hookah smoking involves the use of burning charcoal that is needed to heat the hookah tobacco to generate the smoke that the smoker inhales. In addition to inhaling toxicants and carcinogens found in the hookah tobacco smoke, hookah smokers and nonsmokers who socialize with hookah smokers also inhale large quantities of charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions.”
In the study, half of all 300 people were avid hookah users. The team collected samples of urine before and after a hookah smoking session. The urine samples from before and after the hookah session were different. The urine samples from after the session included a benzene metabolite called SPMA (s-phenylmercapturic acid).
Benzene and its metabolites are associated with cancers, particularly leukemia. High levels of benzenesmetabolites such as found in this study is indicative of toxins that are able to bypass the water filter of the hookah and attack the healthy blood cells giving rise to a malignancy.
The study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention which is a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, also revealed that people who smoked hookah had a 4 fold increase in the urinary levels of SPMA. Whereas those who did not some but were in contact with active smokers or are passive smokers had a two fold increase in their levels of the metabolite.
“In contrast to what is believed, hookah tobacco smoking is not a safe alternative to smoking other forms of tobacco because there is no safe level of exposure to benzene, our results call for interventions to reduce or prevent hookah tobacco use, regulatory actions to limit hookah-related exposure to toxicants including benzene, and include hookah smoking in clean indoor air legislation.” Kassem said.