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Hookahs Can Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Health Officials Say


Hookahs, which many people perceive as a less dangerous way of using tobacco than smoking cigarettes, can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, health experts say.

The health effects of hookahs, or water pipes, have not been studied as rigorously as cigarettes, but the risks are becoming clearer as the pipes grow in popularity in the United States, Thomas Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied hookahs extensively, told The Courier-Journal.

Hookah bars feature water pipes that are used to smoke a blend of tobacco, molasses and fruit called shisha. Researchers say that contrary to the belief of many hookah smokers, the water in the pipe does not filter all the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted in a report that the smoke inhaled in a typical one-hour hookah session can equal 100 cigarettes or more. The WHO report also stated that even after it has been passed through water, the tobacco smoke in a hookah pipe contains high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

Henry Spiller, Director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center, told the newspaper that he has seen hookah users with significant carbon monoxide poisoning. He noted that regular hookah users may develop long-term health problems from increased carbon monoxide levels, including neurological damage. In severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to a coma or death.

2 Responses to this article

  1. maxwood / January 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    A look at the photo (above) shows the entirely avoidable worst feature of a hookah– the excessively large diameter and serving-size capacity. Obviously a “gram or two” of user’s choice of herb can be loaded in there; result: maximum smoke at the cost of vapor; maximum carbon monoxide and heat shock instead of nicotine, cannnabinoid or whatever nutrient the user desired. This hookah “culture” is just designed to teach children there’s something heroic about enduring an overdose, and it leads to more, not less cigarette addiction.

  2. kbrd / January 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    This report seems incomplete. Don’t many hookahs have a lump of charcoal added to the mix in the bowl to keep it lit? Is that a piece of charcoal being lit in the picture posted? Charcoal is significant source of carbon monoxide, even compared to tobacco, another source of carbon monoxide.

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