New York, Aug 13: While the popularity of hookah (tobacco pipe) has increased in recent years, researchers say it may be more dangerous than other forms of smoking tobacco.

Using a custom-built testing device, the researchers analysed emissions during a typical hookah session and found that one draw from a pipe contained as many noxious substances as a cigarette.

Hookah mainstream smoke, which is directly inhaled, has many toxic and harmful chemicals, like nicotine that can lead to tobacco addiction, irritating carbonyl compounds, and benzine, a known carcinogen,” said study lead author Veronique Perraud from University of California.

“Due to the greater volume inhaled in every puff and the longer duration of a smoking session, the hookah often delivers a higher dose of those chemicals to the smoker,” Perraud said.

It also produced large quantity of carbon monoxide, mainly from the burning of charcoal to heat the tobacco or herbal mixture in its bowl. The study, published in journal Aerosol Science and Technology, also referred to several cases of carbon monoxide intoxication.

In addition to testing ordinary tobacco, the group also studied a nicotine-free herbal mixture, marketed as a healthier alternative, and discovered that it produced even higher levels of toxic gases.

The study is the first to characterise ultra-fine particles (with a diameter smaller than 100 nanometers) in the inhaled smoke.

The researchers measured the chemical composition of gases and solids emitted during a hookah session in real time. “Through our technique of testing emissions in the beginning, midpoint and end of a smoking session, we were able to show that a smoker is exposed to a higher quantity of ultra-fine particles during the first 10 minutes compared with the rest of the session,” she said.

According to the study, these miniscule particles can pose significant health risks by making their way deep into the pulmonary system and by readily crossing the blood-brain barrier.

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New Delhi: Eight states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Karnataka and Telangana, account for around 90 percent of the active COVID-19 cases in the country and 80 percent of the active cases have been reported from 49 districts, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was informed on Thursday.

Besides, the GoM was told that six states -- Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- account for 86 percent of the deaths caused by COVID-19 and 32 districts account for 80 percent of such fatalities, the Union health ministry said.

The GoM, which held its 18th meeting under the chairpersonship of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday, was informed that there was a special focus on the regions showing a higher COVID-19 fatality rate, the ministry said. The GoM was also briefed on the current COVID-19 status in India.

"A global comparison between the five most-affected countries clearly depicted that India has one of the lowest numbers of cases per million (538) and deaths per million (15), compared to the global average of 1,453 and 68.7 respectively," the ministry said in a statement. Within the country, eight states -- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat -- account for around 90 percent of the active coronavirus cases, it said.

As regards the COVID-19 healthcare infrastructure in India, the GoM was informed that as on Thursday, there were 3,914 facilities across the country with 3,77,737 isolation beds (without ICU support), 39,820 ICU beds and 1,42,415 oxygen-supported beds, along with 20,047 ventilators.

Over 21.3 crore N95 masks, 1.2 crores personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and 6.12 crore hydroxychloroquine tablets have so far been distributed, the GoM was told.

"As we move forward, our focus shall be on the management of COVID-19 through strict containment measures and surveillance, utilising the full testing capacity, monitoring of the co-morbid and elderly population, predicting the emerging hotspots, leveraging digital tools such as Aarogya Setu, ensuring seamless patient admission processes and infrastructure preparedness (critical-care beds, oxygen, ventilators and logistics)," Vardhan said.

"Along with the states and Union territories, our aim is to reduce and keep the case fatality rate low by early identification and effective clinical management," he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the ministry.

During Unlock 2.0, the future steps would include a sharp focus on containment and surveillance, including demarcation of containment zones and notifying such areas on the health ministry website.

It includes strict perimeter control with only essential activities allowed, intensive contact-tracing, house-to-house search or surveillance and buffer zones to be identified outside the containment zones.

Dr. Sujeet K Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, presented a detailed report on the surveillance efforts undertaken in India during the pandemic, the ministry said.

The focus was on a strict containment strategy and surveillance through SARI/ILI cases, serological survey and enhancing the laboratory network for testing.

The major concern areas in the country were highlighted and the measures to be taken listed, including timely clinical management, along with testing and surveillance in the high-risk population with co-morbidities, to reduce the case fatality ratio.

In a detailed presentation by Amit Khare, Chairman of the Empowered Group-8 (on information, communication and public awareness), the GoM was briefed on the key steps taken regarding communication of information and raising public awareness.

The group received 6,755 alerts of fake news, of which 5,890 were replied to directly and rebuttals published to 17 foreign media stories. The group also coordinated the issue of 98 daily COVID-19 bulletins, 92 media briefings and 2,482 press releases.

The group played a pro-active role in the behavioral change campaign during the pandemic and creating awareness regarding the relief measures among farmers and MSMEs under the "Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan" launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ministry said.

It was highlighted that the mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic will be a major part of the communication strategy going forward through discussions in the media, the ministry said.

There was also a special focus on dissemination of messages and information in regional languages, it added.

India saw a record single-day surge of 24,879 coronavirus cases on Thursday, which pushed the country's COVID-19 tally to 7,67,296, while the death toll due to the disease climbed to 21,129 with 487 new fatalities, according to the health ministry data updated at 8 am.

Vardhan was joined by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Minister of State, Chemical and Fertilisers and Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya. Dr. Vinod Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, joined the meeting through video-conferencing.