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Water Pipe Smoking Has the Same Respiratory Effects as Smoking Cigarettes

A new study published in the journal Respirology reveals that water pipe smoking, such as hookah or bong smoking, affects lung function and respiratory symptoms as much as cigarette smoking.

Most users of water pipes and many physicians believe that smoking through a water pipe filters out the toxic components of tobacco and is considerably less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

Led by Mohammad Hossein Boskabady, MD, PhD, of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, researchers set out to compare lung function and respiratory symptoms among water pipe smokers, deep or normal inhalation cigarette smokers, and non-smokers.

Three groups of smokers, including 57 water pipe smokers, 30 deep inhalation cigarette smokers (S-DI), and 51 normal inhalation cigarette smokers (S-NI) were identified and studied. In addition, 44 non-smokers were studied as a control group.

A questionnaire was administered to assess the prevalence and severity of respiratory symptoms and lung function tests performed on smokers and control subjects using a spirometer.

Results showed an increased prevalence and severity of respiratory symptoms among water pipe smokers and cigarette smokers. Similar effects of water pipe smoking and deep inhalation cigarette smoking on respiratory status were found.

Wheezing was present in 23% of water pipe smokers, 30% in S-DI, and 21.6% in S-NI. Chest tightness was present in 36.8% of water pipe smokers, 40% in S-DI, and 29.4% in S-NI. Cough was present in 21% of water pipe smokers, 36.7% of S-DI, and 19.6% of S-NI. Wheezing, chest tightness, and cough only occurred in non-smokers 9.1%, 13.3% and 6.8% respectively.

“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 concludes. “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.”