Hookah smokers are at increased risk of heart attack

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Smoking tobacco in waterpipes or hookah, is associated with increased risk of heart attacks

Smoking tobacco in waterpipes or hookah, more commonly known as hookahs, results in inhaling toxic chemicals. This often exceeds the levels of these chemicals in cigarette smoke. This may harm the heart and blood vessels, according to a new scientific statement published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Waterpipe smoking (WPS) goes by many names – hookah, narghile, argileh, shisha and goza. Hookah tobacco is usually a combination of dried fruit, flavored tobacco and substances to keep the tobacco moist.

A single session of hookah that typically last for 30 or more minuters results in greater exposure to carbon monoxide and large quantities of particulate matter than a single cigarette. Even short-term exposure to carbon monoxide in hookahs is toxic and can interfere with exercise capacity, according to the statement authors.

Globally, hookah usage is spreading among younger people. In the United States, recent surveys have estimated hookah usage that range from 4. 8 percent among high school students to 13.6 percent of young adults (18-24 years old). People 18-24 years of age also accounted for 55 percent of hookah smokers nationwide

In addition to carbon monoxide, hookah smoke contains other potentially harmful chemicals that can affect the cardiovascular system, including nicotine, air pollutants, volatile organic chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, acrolein, lead, cadmium and arsenic. Most of these toxins are higher in hookah than cigarette smoke.

“Hookah smoke contains harmful substances and the American Heart Association strongly recommends avoiding the use of tobacco in any form,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., chair of the writing group for the statement and professor of medicine and director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center in Kentucky.

Previous studies have shown that WPS acutely leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, impaired pulmonary function and carbon monoxide intoxication. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema and coronary artery disease are serious complications of long-term use. Lung, gastric and oesophageal cancer are associated with WPS as well as periodontal disease, obstetrical complications, osteoporosis and mental health problems.

“Many young people mistakenly believe that smoking tobacco from a hookah is less harmful than cigarette smoking because the tobacco if filtered through water, but there is no scientific evidence that supports that claim. However, there is evidence to suggest that hookah smoking is addictive and can lead to the use of other tobacco products such as cigarettes,” said Bhatnagar.

The tobacco in hookah is flavoured with fruit, candy and alcohol flavours, making hookah the most popular flavoured tobacco product among the young  audience. In addition, because many people smoke hookah in lounges and cafes it is perceived to be a social activity and less habit-forming.

Globally, hookah usage is spreading among younger people. In the United States, recent surveys have estimated hookah usage that range from 4. 8 percent among high school students to 13.6 percent of young adults (18-24 years old). People 18-24 years of age also accounted for 55 percent of hookah smokers nationwide.

Currently, there is a considerable misperception among hookah users that this method of tobacco use is harmless. More research is needed to effectively communicate the negative health impact of hookah smoking.