FRIDAY, Aug. 31, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking through a hookah or bong is as harmful to the lungs as smoking cigarettes, a new study finds.
Iranian researchers identified similar effects on lung function and respiratory symptoms -- including wheeze, cough and chest tightness -- in both water pipe smokers and deep inhalation cigarette smokers.
The study, published in the August issue of the journal Respirology, challenges the widely held belief that smoking through these types of water pipes filters out the toxic components of tobacco.
"Our findings reveal that there were profound effects of water-pipe smoking on lung function values, which were similar to the effects observed in deep-inhalation cigarette smokers," said Dr. Mohammad Hossein Boskabady, of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, and colleagues in a journal news release.
Researchers compared the lung function of three groups of smokers -- 57 water-pipe smokers, 30 deep-inhalation cigarette smokers and 51 normal-inhalation cigarette smokers -- and a fourth group of 44 nonsmokers.
Wheezing was found in 23 percent of water-pipe smokers, 30 percent of deep-inhalation cigarette smokers and about 22 percent of normal-inhalation cigarette smokers.
Chest tightness was present in nearly 37 percent of water-pipe smokers, 40 percent of deep-inhalation cigarette smokers and about 29 percent of normal-inhalation cigarette smokers. Cough was present in 21 percent of water-pipe smokers, about 37 percent of deep-inhalation cigarette smokers and almost 20 percent of normal-inhalation cigarette smokers.
Nonsmokers displayed far fewer symptoms. Wheezing, chest tightness and cough were present in about 9 percent, 13 percent and 7 percent, respectively, of nonsmokers.
Water pipes, often used by young people for smoking flavored tobacco, draw the smoke through water to cool it before inhalation. The term "hookah" generally refers to a multi-stemmed device that allows several people to smoke simultaneously.
In the United States, hookah bars are on the rise, especially near college campuses.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about water pipes.