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CDC: Popular hookah is more harmful than smoking

Cigarettes might be on their way out, but hookah is very popular with college students who don’t seem know its dangers, according to a new study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The study polled a sample of nearly 500 Florida college students about their use of hookah and found that over 50 percent have used hookah, which is a water pipe that can be used to smoke flavored tobacco. About 16 percent of the students reported smoking it in the last month.

Comparatively, the smoking rate among adults dropped to 17.8 percent in 2013, down from over 20 percent in 2005 and the lowest rate since 1965, according to CDC data.

More than 50 percent of the students said they believed smoking hookah was safer than cigarettes, and nearly 30 percent of the students who had never smoked it said they would do it in the future.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“In a typical 1-hour hookah smoking session, hookah users inhale approximately 90,000 mL volume of smoke, which is substantially more smoke than the smoke from 1 cigarette (500–600 mL),” according to the report, which seems like an understatement: By their math, an hour of hookah smoke is equivalent to between 160 and 180 cigarettes.

But it’s not just about the tobacco. Hookah pipes use charcoal to keep the tobacco burning, and the charcoal adds significant amounts of carbon monoxide and cancer-causing chemicals. Even though the smoke seems less harsh than cigarette smoke, it has more tar, too.

Hookah cafes continue to open in the U.S., with about 2,000 to 3,000 new ones in the last decade, the report said.