Hookah tobacco and smoke contain lower levels of four toxic metals- arsenic, lead, cadmium and chromium- than cigarette tobacco and smoke, a new study has revealed.
Researchers said that the study, which was part of the 246th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), provided no support for the popular notion that hookahs are safer than cigarettes.
Joseph Caruso, Ph.D., who led the study, said that it is very difficult to compare hookah smoking with cigarette smoking because they are done so differently.
Caruso and colleagues, who are with the University of Cincinnati, think that the lower levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and chromium they detected in hookah smoke are not due to filtering of the smoke through water. Rather, it seems that shisha itself may contain lower levels of those metals, since Caruso''s team did not detect excess amounts of those metals in the hookah water.
Other differences in hookah vs. cigarette smoking complicate any interpretation of the health implications of the lower levels of toxic metals in hookah smoke, noted the researchers.
They studied unsmoked shisha, as well as shisha smoke, with a sensitive instrument called an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. They also removed the additives from the shisha and found little difference before and after, thus the tobacco is the likely source of the metals, they said. Whether the smoke went through the water in the hookah also didn''t affect the metal levels.