LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Over half of young adults believe smoking tobacco out of water pipes is not harmful to their health, despite warnings from federal health officials to the contrary, according to a UCLA study.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports researchers with the UCLA School of Nursing visited three Southland hookah lounges to identify factors influencing perceptions, attitudes and preferences toward hookah smoking.

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The study asked lounge patrons between 18 and 30 years old if smoking hookah – which is a Near East tobacco pipe designed with a long tube that passes through water to cool the smoke as it is drawn through – is harmful to their health.

Nearly 60 percent of patrons said they did not believe it was harmful, while about half of those respondents cited the smoke getting filtered through water as a main factor in their response. Another 35 percent said they thought the fruit used to flavor the tobacco reduced effects from the tobacco’s harmful chemicals, according to the study.

Less than 20 percent said hookahs are not harmful because the tobacco is not addictive and does not contain nicotine, researchers found.

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Many of the study’s findings, however, were in direct contrast to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found the charcoal hookah smokers use to heat the tobacco can raise health risks, by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.

Health officials also warn that because of the way a hookah is used – an hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs, according to the CDC – smokers may absorb more of the toxic substances also found in cigarette smoke than cigarette smokers do.

Mary Rezk-Hanna, the study’s lead researcher, said many local hookah lounges are located next to colleges and universities and tend to draw younger crowds – and with them some dangerous misconceptions.

“A lot of knowledge needs to be gained related to the harmful effects of hookah smoking on our health,” Rezk-Hanna said. “One of the main misconceptions…is that the smoke tends to get cleared out and filtered out with the water bowl.”

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The study was published in the July–August issue of the journal Nursing Research.