Dangers of Hookah Smoke

Hookah Smoke vs. Cigarette Smoke

A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. It is also referred to as a shisha, goza, hubbly-bubbly, borry, arhile and narghile. When smoking hookah, charcoal heats the tobacco in the head of the pipe, and then smoke is filtered and cooled through water at the base before being inhaled through a hose.

Hookah tobacco comes in a variety of flavors, including apple, plum, coconut, mango and strawberry, as well as caramel and mint flavors. In hookah shops, the fruity smell of the flavored tobacco attracts young people, and misleads them to believe that hookah is a safe way to smoke tobacco. Hookah bars and lounges are emerging as well, where a communal hookah is placed at each table for everyone to share. Because of the social atmosphere hookah creates and its misconception as a safe alternative to smoking, hookah use is increasing dramatically among youth.

However, there are serious health risks from smoking hookah. Smoking tobacco through water does not filter out cancer-causing chemicals. Actually, because of the filtration process, smoking hookah requires taking longer, harder drags. This forces the smoker to inhale twice as deeply as they would with a cigarette, causing harmful chemicals to penetrate even deeper into the lungs.

The dangers of hookah smoke mirror those of cigarette smoke. It contains high levels of arsenic, lead and nickel, and when compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke contains 36 times more tar and 15 times more carbon monoxide. Smoking hookah poses serious health risks to smokers and nonsmokers, including cancer, heart disease, lung damage and dental disease. Even if you’re at a hookah bar and you’re not smoking hookah, you still breathe in the smoke around you. There is also nicotine in hookah smoke, making it easy to get hooked.

Did you know?

In 2014, the Monitoring the Future survey found that, among high school seniors in the U.S., 23% had used hookah in the past year, up significantly from 17% from 2010.