Bridgett Zayas/Contributing Writer
The Department of Epidemiology at the University in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work has established South Florida’s first clinical research lab for evaluating the effect of smoking flavored tobacco from hookah.
Dr. Wasim Maziak, principle investigator, Dr. Ziyad Ben Taleb, project director, and Dr. Mayra Vargas-Rivera, lab manager, started this investigation about eight months ago and focus primarily on participants ages 18 through 30.
A Florida Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2015 showed a significant decrease in the use of cigarettes by high school and middle school students. Since 1998, there has been a 75 percent decrease in cigarette use by high school students and an 89 percent decrease in cigarette use by middle school students.
However, the same survey shows that since 2009 there has been a 26 percent increase of hookah usage by high school students and a 95 percent increase of hookah usage by middle school students. The use of flavored tobacco products has increased by 38 percent and 41 percent by high school and middle school students, respectively, since 2010.
The clinical research came about after the National Institutes of Health began to offer grants for research on the effects of waterpipe and flavored tobacco, according to Maziak.
“We wanted to establish a lab that is specifically designed for this type of study,” Taleb said. “This includes a specialized room with a ventilation system where smoke can be vented to an enclosed area without leaking to other offices.”
Before receiving the grant, FIU had already made a commitment to research hookah, according to the research team, because it directly relates to the current issues in public health.
Some of the variables the research team will be using in in their experiment include puff topography, toxicant exposure, CO2 exposure, nicotine delivery and user satisfaction.
“Puff topography is a special instrument we attach to the waterpipe itself and as the subject inhales it records length of inhalation, frequency, depth, intervals and total volume of smoke inhaled,” Maziak said. “A lot of these parameters are important from a regulatory perspective.
If you can modify the product in a way that people take less puffs, or less deep puffs, or less smoke, then you are protecting these individuals even if they do not quit smoking,” Maziak said. “That is why we want to monitor puff topography.”
The research team hopes to provide the Food and Drug Administration with strong evidence that flavor is a major contributor to hookah’s attractiveness, especially towards young people.
“Our goal is not to remove hookah from the market or to deny people the right to choose,” Taleb said. “We want them to make informed choices and provide data and scientific evidence to show the effects of flavored tobacco on them.”
Photo retrieved from Flickr