Doctors warn water pipes could lead to long-term health problems, including lung disease and cancer

Australian doctors have issued a disturbing warning about the dangers of smoking water pipes, dispelling the myth they are safer than cigarettes. Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia focused on the case of a woman in her 20s who regularly used a water pipe and was rushed to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. Cardiologists warned more people could be exposing themselves to long-term health problems by using the pipes, commonly known as hookah or shisha. All the long-term consequences of smoking are also present in a water pipe – the lung disease, the cancer, the cardiovascular disease. Dr Louis Wang, from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said an hour-long session smoking a pipe provided as much smoke inhalation as between 50 and 100 cigarettes. “All the long-term consequences of smoking are also present in a water pipe – the lung disease, the cancer, the cardiovascular disease,” he said. “But the additional risk in a water pipe is the fact that there is a lot of carbon monoxide potentially within that chamber.” Dr Wang’s research was the first in Australia to report a connection between carbon monoxide poisoning and the design of a shisha. The pipes work by using charcoal to heat material at the top of the device, which travels through a pipe into a water chamber before it is inhaled. Dr Wang said the process generated more carbon monoxide than a cigarette. “The chamber within a water pipe is relatively secluded, relative to the external environment, relative to a smoker who is smoking a cigarette in the open air,” he said. He said carbon monoxide was produced when there was a lack of oxygen concentration within the combustion chamber. The research was prompted when a 20-year-old regular water pipe user was rushed to hospital suffering carbon monoxide poisoning. “She was very lethargic, sleepy, very light-headed,” Dr Wang said. “There was a concern [she] was in danger of losing consciousness entirely. “During her observations and monitoring in hospital, she developed profound ECG changes, which were consistent with somebody not having enough oxygen supply to her heart.” While the woman made a full recovery, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to irreversible heart damage and long-term mental health consequences. University of New South Wales Professor of Clinical Pharmacology Ric Day said the woman’s case was not isolated. “The carbon monoxide exposure from water pipes is much greater than from cigarette smoking,” he said. “It relates to the amount of smoke that you’ve got to inhale to get the equivalent amount of nicotine through the water pipe. “There’s a lot of smoke inhaled, so it’s fairly easy to extrapolate.” The warning comes as the health department in New South Wales moves to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas, including water pipes, from July. Parramatta restaurant manager Talal Alamein has already banned shisha in his outdoor terrace, which once attracted crowds of smokers. He admitted his business, Sahra Restaurant, had taken a hit, but said it was a price he was willing to pay. “I decided not to be a hypocrite,” he said. “I advise my children not to smoke [and] I have a grandkid. “There was one woman one night when we were fully booked, and she said, ‘I didn’t know I would be exposed to that’. “I’m … happier now that it’s going to become a law.”

ABC News, 4 May 2015 ;http://www.abc.net.au/news/ ;