Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Smoking and Tobacco

Measuring nicotine levels

02/05/2008

Question:

I`m not sure this is an appropriate question for this site, but its the only site I found that I thought could maybe give me an answer. Is there any simple way of measuring the amount of nicotine in tobacco smoke? The reason I ask is because I enjoy smoking a hookah on occasion, and I would like to test if different methods of water filtering have any substantial effect on nicotine content. I`ve been unable to find any information about this on the internet, and the information I found on the health effects of hookahs varied from "Its good for you" to "They are worse than cigarettes". I know it is not good for you, but I would like to possibly test this myself to attempt to find healthier methods. I, like many hookah smokers (or smokers in general), have no intentions of quiting but would like to have truly healthier solutions. Anything you can tell me on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Answer:

Dear Hookah Smoker:

You ask, "Can the nicotine content of hookah smoke be measured?" Answer, "yes." But, it would require a fairly expensive lab analysis, and I'm not sure how relevant the answer would be.

For starters, nicotine is only one of the dangerous chemicals in smoke. Nicotine is addictive and contributes to a number of adverse short and long term behavioral changes. Moreover, it puts a dangerous squeeze on the heart and blood vessels -- including those that feed the brain. Hookah sessions apparently raise nicotine (cotinine) levels higher than in cigarette smokers.

Hookahs in addition have been shown to throw off more carbon monoxide than even a cigarette and the non-nicotine particulate matter, aka "tar," has also been shown to be several times that inhaled by a cigarette smoker. The Mayo Clinic has the worlds best nicotine addiction center. Here is their experience: www.mayoclinic.com/health/hookah/AN01265  

Hookahs do two things very well. One, they cool the smoke to allow it to be inhaled more deeply, and, two, by virtue of their eastern quasi-mystical allure, they have become very effective initiation tools toward nicotine addiction.

Excuse the pun, but I hope you don't get sucked in by the hype.

For more information:

Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Rob  Crane, MD Rob Crane, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University