Smoking shisha at home puts non-smokers at risk, researchers warn
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More proof that shisha is worse than cigarettes

Shisha smokers have another reason to huff and puff. A new study by the NYU Abu Dhabi Public Health Research Center has revealed that secondhand smoke from shisha is more harmful than secondhand smoke from cigarettes. Their findings are based on data collected from smokers’ homes in the UAE.

Air samples from 33 homes were analyzed – 11 where only shisha was smoked, 12 where only cigarettes were smoked, and 10 where no smoking occurred, with startling results. All the pollutants assessed in the study, including carbon monoxide (CO) and airborne particulate matter, were found to be highest in shisha smoking homes.

CO levels in the rooms where shisha was smoked was nearly five times higher than in rooms where cigarettes were smoked, but that's not all. The study found rooms adjacent to the ones where shisha was smoked also had four times as much CO as rooms adjacent to where cigarettes were smoked.

Other rooms "not any safer"

“The other rooms [where shisha wasn’t smoked] were not any safer,” explained Dr. Scott Sherman, principal investigator at the Public Health Research Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. “So, sending your children to play in the other room while you smoke [shisha] is not a safe alternative. This is one of the first studies to show that it’s a big deal in ways that we didn't necessarily expect.”

Smoking shisha at home puts non-smokers at risk, researchers warn

Previous research has shown that shisha is harmful to smokers but this is the first study to examine hazardous levels of home air pollution caused by shisha and the potential health effects for people in nearby rooms. Shisha is harmful because the tobacco used in it is flavored, and these flavors contain multiple toxic chemicals not found in cigarettes.

RELATED: Is smoking a health crisis in the UAE?

The researchers hope the results of this study will help increase global awareness about the dangers of shisha not only for smokers but for people exposed to secondhand smoke, and lead to stronger health protection policies.

Dr. Michael Weitzman, professor in the departments of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, also fears all the hard work and campaigning that has reduced cigarette-related deaths around the world in recent years will all be for nothing because of the growing shisha trend.

“There are serious concerns that the success we’ve had with tobacco control can be wiped out by shisha smoking,” Weitzman said, especially if the practice of smoking shisha indoors and at home goes unchecked.

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If people want to smoke at home then they have that choice so it’s really a question of education and making them realize what they're getting themselves and their families into.

Dr. Scott Sherman, NYUAD Public Health Research Center

“If people want to smoke at home then they have that choice so it’s really a question of education and making them realize what they're getting themselves and their families into,” added Sherman. Clean indoor air laws present a “very difficult and different challenge.”

The research should spark a “conversation that will hopefully motivate the public to behave differently or to create regulations that could save many lives, and improve the quality of life for countless people around the world,” Weitzman concluded.

He is the lead author of the paper detailing the findings of this study, 'Effects of hookah smoking on indoor air quality in homes', which has been published by Tobacco Control, one of the leading peer-reviewed journals on the subject, while Sherman and Dr. Afzal Hussein Yusufali, a consultant cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, are co-authors.