The popularity of smoking through a hookah has been on the rise for several years, with many towns and cities having cafes or bars specifically for hookah. The National Cancer Foundation funded a study into whether or not websites that offer Hookah products are candid about their products.
The research team at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine did a systematic search of some of the most prominent Hookah Tobacco websites on the Internet.
"We found 144 major websites, and the majority of these didn't have the word 'tobacco' on the first page, in fact only 26% of websites even had the word 'tobacco' on the first page. Only 58% of sites had the word 'tobacco' anywhere on the website," said Brian Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, and lead researcher on the study.
He said the lack of accurate labeling of the tobacco products helps spur a misperception that smoking from a hookah is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.
"They don't state a lot of the facts that have been emphasized in other literature, such as the fact that one hookah tobacco session can expose the user to as much as 50 to 100 times the volume of smoke as a single cigarette," said Primack.
The smoke is not as concentrated, so the user is exposed to 40 times the tar and 20 times the carcinogens as a regular cigarette, which Primack added still poses a substantial risk to the smoker.
In addition, the hookah websites did not have the same safeguards against allowing underage people to view and purchase products.
"Literally none of the websites we looked at required age verification to view the site," he said. "Why is there this policy gap? Well part of it is just that this is a very new phenomenon and it's slipping through the cracks."
The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.