Introduction: Waterpipe tobacco smoking has in recent years become a popular international phenomenon, particularly among youth. While it has been shown to deliver significant quantities of several carcinogenic and toxic substances, phenols, an important class of chemical compounds thought to promote DNA mutation and cardiovascular diseases, however, has not been studied. Due to the relatively low temperature characteristic of waterpipe tobacco during smoking (i.e., <450 °C), it was hypothesized that phenolic compounds, which form at approximately 300 °C, will be found in abundance in waterpipe smoke.
Methods: In this study, phenolic compounds in the particle phase of waterpipe mainstream smoke were quantified. Waterpipe and cigarette mainstream smoke generated using standard methods were collected on glass fiber pads and analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy selected ion current profile chromatogram method for quantification.
Results: We found that relative to a single cigarette, a waterpipe delivers at least 3 times greater quantities of the 7 analyzed phenols (phenol, o-cresol, m-cresol, p-cresol, catechol, resorcinol, and hydroquinone). Moreover, phenol derivatives such as methylcatechol, and flavorings such as vanillin, ethyl vanillin, and benzyl alcohol were found in quantities up to 1,000 times greater than the amount measured in the smoke of a single cigarette.
Conclusion: The large quantities of phenols and phenol derivatives in waterpipe smoke add to the growing evidence that habitual waterpipe use may increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.