The actual levels of nicotine vary anywhere from 75 per cent less to three times higher than the amount stated on packaging
New York: Hookah tobacco products have labels that are misleading and perpetuate a false impression of safety, a new study has found. Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially-made tobacco, which comes in many different flavours.
Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and University at Buffalo (UB) in the US examined the nicotine content and pH levels of 140 different packages of 12 brands
of foreign-made and US made water pipe tobacco. While many users think it is less harmful, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking. Hookah use is hazardous and addictive, use of these products has increased among adolescents.
For the new study, researchers examined the nicotine content and pH levels of 140 different packages of 12 brands of foreign-made and US made water pipe tobacco.
The products examined were analysed in three groups corresponding to three types of hookah tobacco: unwashed, washed or herbal. They found that the nicotine levels in washed products were 236 per cent higher, overall, than the product labels claimed. Levels in unwashed products were 71 per cent lower than what the labels indicated, while herbal products were found to have nicotine levels consistent with product labelling.
Evaluation of pH levels, which were found to vary significantly among unwashed, washed and herbal products, is important, because higher pH levels allow nicotine to be absorbed more easily and quickly into the bloodstream, researchers said. "The nicotine content of water pipe tobacco is highly variable, much more so than we see with other tobacco
products," said Mark Travers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "In this study, we found that many of the labels were erroneous, with actual levels of nicotine varying anywhere
from 75 per cent less to three times higher than the amount stated on packaging," said Travers.
"This study provides a valuable assessment of the nicotine content and pH levels across a variety of waterpipe tobacco products," said Gary Giovino, professor at UB. "There is a need for standardised testing of waterpipe tobacco products, accurate constituent labelling and health warnings," Giovino said. "Misleading packaging and labelling provides hookah users with erroneous information and perpetuates a false impression of safety," said Jessica Kulak from UB. The study appears in the journal Tobacco Regulatory Science.