A Tobacco Control Policy & Legal Resource Center
Supporting Smokefree Air & Tobacco-Free Lives

Hookah steam stones lead to false sense of security

Posted on

New research suggests the use of hookah steam stones – commonly considered a safer alternative to cigarette smoking – could be leaving users with a dangerous, false sense of security. The findings out of the University of Cincinnati/Agilent Technologies Metallomics Center of the Americas are published this month in the Microchemical Journal.

An analysis led by Amberlie Clutterbuck, a doctoral student in the UC Department of Chemistry, found residues of toxic metals that included chromium, arsenic and cadmium following several simulated hookah/steam stones smoking scenarios.

Steam stones are pebble-like rocks soaked in the same type of fluid used in various hookah tobaccos, such as mo’assel – popular in the USA (typically glycerin, but might include honey or molasses) – and heated in the heads of the hookah device in place of tobacco to create a smoke-like vapor cloud, plus small aerosol droplets.

The researcher tested several 30-minute simulated smoking scenarios involving the different brands of steam stones and charcoal. The study found that the toxic metals from the steam stones did not consistently travel through the hookah to the mouthpiece, suggesting that the majority of toxic metals t in the mouthpiece likely came from the charcoal used to heat the apparatus.

“In spite of the claims that the steam stones are a ‘safer’ alternative tobacco product, this research demonstrates a smoker will still be subjected to toxic metals in potentially harmful amounts when using traditional charcoal,” states the article.