Hookah

Taylor Ratcliff, a 23-year-old who will return to UF as a history senior in the spring, blows out Gator Mist flavored smoke at Sheesha on Oct. 7, 2015. Ratcliff said he used smoke at Sheesha twice a week with friends, but hadn’t been back in a while because he purchased his own hookah.

Hookah may create 25 times more tar than a cigarette, according to a recent report published by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

Cigarettes are the most common way to smoke tobacco, with hookah not far behind. While more harmful than cigarettes, hookah is rising in popularity among both teenagers and adults, according to the report.

Ricardo Morales, owner of the Mystic Smoke Shop and Hookah Lounge on University Avenue, said researchers are misinformed.

“It can’t be worse than cigarettes,” Morales, 44, said. “You’re not burning it; it’s evaporated through water.”

Researchers used data from 17 previous studies, including one by the World Health Organization, that said one session of hookah creates 100 to 200 times more smoke than cigarette.

Despite Morales’ beliefs, people such as Ramzi Salloum, an assistant professor at the UF Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, said the negative health effects of hookah are very real.

Salloum, 34, said hookah is linked to acute respiratory conditions and carbon monoxide poisoning, along with some associations with cancer.

“We hope young people are aware of the effects of smoking hookah and it does not become a cancer epidemic,” Salloum said.

One hookah session is equal to inhaling two or three cigarettes worth of nicotine, according to the report, and it’s also linked to addiction in younger people.

Despite the current findings, Salloum said research on hookah smoking is scarce compared to that of cigarette smoking. Tar and nicotine aside, other substances are sometimes found in the tobacco, which is unregulated, he said.

Salloum also said the coals used to heat hookahs often contain heavy metals and carcinogens.

While Salloum hopes researchers will focus more on the effects of hookah in the future, he said it’s already clear that water pipes aren’t the answer to the negative effects of cigarettes.

“It’s not a safe alternative,” Salloum said.