Smoking hookah is just as bad for your heart and circulatory system as cigarettes are, a new study reveals.Companies that make the water pipes advertise them as safe alternatives to combustible tobacco smoking. While shisha, the sweet sticky tobacco used with hookahs, may not contain many of the carcinogenic additives in cigarettes, mounting evidence suggests they are water pipe tobacco is still not safe. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found hookah smoking had the same short-term cardiovascular effects as cigarettes, suggesting the long-term risks are probably comparable, too.For the last several decades, tobacco companies have had no choice but to admit that their hallmark products – cigarettes – are dangerous. But that hasn’t stopped them from pushing other products. Their campaigns seem to have worked, particularly among teenagers who are smoking e-cigarettes and hookah more and more.Now, about 10 percent of teens are thought to use hookah, accounting for about half of all the smoking that the age group does, according to a British Medical Journal study published earlier this year. “We know that flavored tobacco products are frequently the first kind of tobacco product used by youth,” lead study author Mary Rezk-Hanna said.“One of the major issues with hookah is the fact that the tobacco is flavored with fruit, candy and alcohol flavours, making hookah the most popular flavoured tobacco product among this audience.” These young people and adult users alike may be unwittingly vulnerable to just as many toxic chemicals and physical stressors as cigarette smokers are. Hashish has just as much tobacco – and therefore nicotine – as cigarettes and its smoke still contains carbon monoxide, tar heavy metals and other carcinogenic chemicals.It is not unlikely that hookah smokers are actually exposed to greater volumes of these harmful substances as well. A cigarette is gone in an average of 20 puffs, over the course of several minutes.Hookah is a social activity and ‘sessions’ may go on for an hour.During that time, users take 10 times as many pulls of hookah smoke, averaging 200 equally powerful hits of nicotine.The effects on their hearts and cardiovascular systems may be disastrous, according to the new UCLA study.To test their theory, the researchers took measures of a number of vital signs from 48 young, healthy hookah smokers before they smoked and compared them to stats taken after they spent 30 minutes smoking fruit-flavored hashish.Immediately, the effects of hookah smoke on their hearts were clear.A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. After a hookah session, participants’ heart rates rose by an average of 16 beats per minute, making them as much as one quarter faster. Unsurprisingly, their nicotine and carbon monoxide levels shot up too, as did their blood pressures. But it was the first time that scientists observed the direct effects of hookah smoke on arteries. Hardening of the arteries is one of the immediate, classic signs of the harm that smoking can eventually do to the heart.This happens due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which in turn gradually restricts blood flow to the heart and forces the heart to work harder.It is not altogether clear how, but smoking exacerbates both the buildup of bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, main risk factors for artery hardening and heart disease. After just 30 minutes of hookah, the study participants had markedly harder arteries.The effects were roughly the same as those previous studies have found from cigarette smoking.“Our findings challenge the concept that fruit-flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier tobacco alternative. It is not,” said Rezk-Hanna.Published in Daily Times, August 5th 2018.