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New study: hookah may be worse than cigarettes

Posted at 9:06 PM, Jan 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 00:00:42-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Over the past 10 years, smoking hookah has become more popular as smokers turn to alternatives for cigarettes. The water pipes have been used for hundreds of years, and continue to attract young people today.

"Honestly, you gotta know what you're putting into your body," said Headquarters Hookah owner, Basilios Kastis. "If you understand the risks, and you accept them, enjoy."

Kastis says when it comes to smoking anything, education is key. There are more than a dozen hookah bars and restaurants throughout the city of Tucson. While smoking them is nothing new, it has been increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults in recent years. 
The water pipes are made to smoke flavored tobacco and are often used as an alternative to cigarettes.
A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that an average hookah session delivers 25 times more tar, 2.5 times more nicotine and 10 times more carbon dioxide than the average cigarette. However, a single hookah session can last several hours, compared to the few minutes it takes to smoke one cigarette. 
"Same as many things, alcohol or tobacco aren't the best things for you," said Kastis.  "We never push it as such. If there's any nicotine it's from the natural nicotine that's produced by the tobacco leaf itself. Most of that is obliterated during the washing process and when you lose the photosynthesis process of the tobacco leaf, when you're adding your flavor additives to it, most of that goes away."
Kastis says while there are dangers associated with any kind of tobacco, there are precautions he takes to make sure it's as safe as possible.
"We're pushing to regulate the industry a little bit more. For example, this right here is called the Lotus. That replaces aluminum foil and it replaces direct contact between charcoal and the tobacco itself, eliminating anything that would be coming from the charcoal base."
Kastis also manufactures his own hookah pipes using materials safer than typical metals used in production.   While researchers continue to do studies on the health effects of hookah, Kastis says he doesn't think the demand for the product will be slowing down anytime soon.