Hookah Smokers Putting Health in Jeopardy, FIU Researcher Says

Dr. Wasim Maziak says one study found that hookah smokers experienced 2 traits consistent with addiction

Hookah smokers are putting their health in jeopardy, according to researchers at Florida International University.

"On average, a hookah smoker will inhale 100 times more smoke than a cigarette smoker in a single cigarette," said Dr. Wasim Maziak, who has spent years researching the dangers of hookah smoking.

Maziak told NBC 6 his work has also uncovered a greater carbon monoxide exposure in hookah smoking, versus cigarette smoking.

In one study, the FIU professor found that in just about a day without hookah smoking, participants began experiencing cravings and exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. Both are traits consistent with addiction, the doctor pointed out.

Marcus Diaz works at Morjan Coffee in Davie, where hookah is also served.

"I really never had a strive to smoke hookah or fiend for it," he said, but does smoke occasionally with friends. "You know, you're chilling with friends, playing a game – maybe watching the Heat game – you smoke the hookah. It's a relaxing thing to me, it calms you down, it relaxes you."

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The hookah dates back to ancient Eastern civilization. The tobacco is often sweetly flavored, and goes on top, where it is burned by charcoal. The smoke created is cooled by water at the base and is then inhaled through a hose.

Last year, a state tobacco survey found one-fifth of high schoolers and 4 percent of middle school students have smoked hookah. With every puff, hookah smokers inhale nicotine, and toxins like charcoal and tar, Maziak said.

VIDEO: Doctors warn of hookah smoking dangers.

But those risks aren't cooling down hookah's growing popularity.

"It's now, it's amazingly become very widespread, and, amazingly, flying under the policy radar," Maziak pointed out.

He said young smokers often mistakenly believe the hookah's water base is purifying the smoke and removing toxins, but Maziak said that is not the case.

"The water cools the smoke actually, and it's flavored and smooth," Maziak said. "You do not feel that irritating sensation when you smoke hookah, compared to smoking cigarettes."

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