Smoking a hookah, which has become increasingly popular with college students, could be as harmful as cigarettes, warns a new study.
Since the smoke is filtered through water in a hookah, many youngsters feel that harmful agents are removed, the UPI news wire reported.
"Links have been found between water-pipe (hookah) usage and oral, lung and bladder cancer, in addition to heart disease and clogged arteries," it said quoting a report of the American Lung Association (ALA).
"There are a lot of misperceptions about hookah tobacco use. There's very little information in the public realm," said Thomas Carr, national policy manager of ALA.
Earlier research, though limited, has shown that nicotine in the body increased by 250 percent after just one 40-45 minute session of hookah smoking.
Since people spend a longer period of time smoking hookah, they may inhale more carcinogens - possibly up to the equivalent of 100 cigarettes, the report noted.
Another risk in smoking water pipes is inhaling harmful chemicals from the charcoal or wood fragments used for heating the tobacco, such as carbon monoxide or metals, it added.
Hookah bars and cafes have gained popularity in recent years, often springing up in large cities and near colleges. The sweetened, flavored tobacco makes smoking hookah less irritating than smoking cigarettes.
The novelty, mystique and social camaraderie surrounding this ancient practice, which originated in Persia and India, is another reason for its spread, said Thomas Eissenberg, a professor at the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.