With its fruit and candy flavors, hookah tobacco might seem like the fun, innocent alternative to regular tobacco. But a new study from Iran says that those fun flavors are masking the truth: smoking shisha from a water pipe is just as harmful to your lungs as smoking a normal old cancer-causing cigarette, HealthNewsDigest reported.
The research, led by Mohammad Hossein Boskabady and published in Respirology, casts a grim shadow on a centuries-old tradition in Middle Eastern culture, the AFP reported. Hookah has also become popular in western countries, with defenders claiming that water pipes are safer because they filter out tobacco toxins.
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But this study discredits those health claims, the Jerusalem Post reported. The Israel Cancer Association added that hookah tobacco is often imported from countries that irrigate tobacco with sewage water, according to the Post.
"Our study is the first report regarding the importance of the method of cigarette smoke inhalation with respect to effects on the respiratory system," Boskabady told the Times of India. "Our findings reveal that there were profound effects of water pipe smoking on lung function values, which were similar to the effects observed in deep inhalation cigarette smokers."