Hookah smokers, as well as nonsmokers exposed to hookah smoke at social events in hookah lounges, showed a significant increase in uptake of benzene, a chemical substance associated with an increased risk for leukemia, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Some people believe that because hookah smoke is filtered through water before being inhaled, it’s somehow safer than smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. But that’s simply not the case, according to Nada Kassem, associate director at the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University.

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