The growing fad of smoking tobacco through a water pipe, sometimes known as a hookah, is rapidly turning into a worrisome epidemic, according to a Georgetown University researcher who says smokers who think this form of tobacco use is less toxic than cigarettes are wrong.
“People who use these devices don’t realize that they could be inhaling what is believed to be the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes in one typical 30-60 minute session with a water pipe, because such a large quantity of pure, shredded tobacco is used,” said Christopher Loffredo, PhD, director of the Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology program at Georgetown University Medical Center.
His series of recently published studies documents the trend toward water pipe tobacco smoking, showing how it has swept through the Middle East and gaining popularity in the West, and demonstrating that the amount of cellular chromosomal damage produced inside the mouth is the same as that seen in cigarette smoking.
The trend has now hit European and American cities, especially college towns. “This is frightening because it is a gateway toward a lifetime use of tobacco, including cigarettes,” Loffredo said.