A new University of Florida, USA, study shows that patrons leaving hookah cafés had carbon monoxide levels more than three times higher than patrons exiting traditional bars.
Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to tissues, and long-term exposure has been linked to cardiovascular disease. The UF study results appeared in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The social nature of hookah smoking, which is often shared in groups, makes it appealing to young people, said lead researcher Tracey Barnett, an assistant professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of behavioral science and community health.
“There is also a common misperception that hookah smoking is a harmless alternative to cigarette smoking,” she said.
Hookah pipes are composed of a head, where lit charcoal and tobacco sit, a body with water bowl and a hose. Air is drawn through the tobacco and into the pipe body where it passes through the water before being inhaled through the hose.
A study led by Barnett showed that 11 percent of Florida high school students and 4 percent of middle school students surveyed in 2007 had tried hookah smoking. It is especially popular among college students. A University of Memphis study estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of some young adult populations are current hookah users.
The new UF study is the first to measure carbon monoxide levels of hookah smokers “in the field.”