Hookah Smoking: Health Risks of Hookah Smoking

Hookah Smoking: Health Risks of Hookah Smoking


A hookah is a water pipe that consists of one or more hoses for smoking, a pipe and a bowl to hold the tobacco.

They come in many sizes and styles and are sold all over the world. Hookah is a traditional relaxing and social form of smoking with no health benefits. In fact, Hookah is more potent than smoking cigarettes.

The CDC has found that Hookah smoke is “at least” as dangerous as cigarette smoke. What makes Hookah more potent than cigarettes is the sheer amount of smoke inhaled.

If you enjoy the traditional and social aspects but want to reduce risk, you should consider a vaporizer or electronic cigarette / Hookah. Vaporizing does not involve combustion and it is combustion that is chiefly responsible for the release of the worst toxins associated with smoke. Basically, in terms of Hookah vs cigarettes, both are dangerous. In terms of vaping vs smoking, there is a potential 95% reduction in risk according to Public Health England.

Hookah is also called narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, and goza.

Hookah Smoke and Cancer

  • The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can raise health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Even after it has passed through water, the smoke from a hookah has high levels of these toxic agents.
  • Hookah tobacco and smoke contain several toxic agents known to cause lung, bladder, and oral cancers.
  • Tobacco juices from hookahs irritate the mouth and increase the risk of developing oral cancers.

Other Health Effects of Hookah Smoke

  • Hookah tobacco and smoke contain many toxic agents that can cause clogged arteries and heart disease.
  • Infections may be passed to other smokers by sharing a hookah.
  • Babies born to women who smoked water pipes every day while pregnant weigh less at birth (at least 3½ ounces less) than babies born to nonsmokers.
  • Babies born to hookah smokers are also at increased risk for respiratory diseases.

Hookah Smoking Compared With Cigarette Smoking

  • While many hookah smokers may think this practice is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
    • Water pipe smoking delivers nicotine—the same highly addictive drug found in other tobacco products.
    • The tobacco in hookahs is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal, and the smoke is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke.
  • Because of the way a hookah is used, smokers may absorb more of the toxic substances also found in cigarette smoke than cigarette smokers do.
    • An hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs.
    • The amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 millilitres (ml), compared with 500–600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.
  • Hookah smokers may be at risk for some of the same diseases as cigarette smokers. These include:
    • Oral cancer
    • Lung cancer
    • Stomach cancer
    • Cancer of the esophagus
    • Reduced lung function
    • Decreased fertility

Hookahs and Secondhand Smoke

  • Secondhand smoke from hookahs can be a health risk for nonsmokers. It contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah.

Nontobacco Hookah Products

  • Some sweetened and flavored nontobacco products are sold for use in hookahs.
  • Labels and ads for these products often claim that users can enjoy the same taste without the harmful effects of tobacco.
  • Studies of tobacco-based shisha and “herbal” shisha show that smoke from both preparations contains carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks for smoking-related cancers, heart disease, and lung disease.
  • Nicotine Dependence

    Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in cigarettes. While you may think you are avoiding this nasty substance by indulging in hookah smoke instead, this is not the case. According to the Mayo Clinic, hookah smoking contains about the same amount of nicotine smoke as cigarettes do, putting smokers at risk for tobacco dependence in much the same way as cigarette smoke.

Risk of Infectious Disease:

While hookah smoking does not create a cold or virus, it can aid in passing them around. Dentistry IQ suggests that the ritual of passing the hose from person to person in social hookah settings such as bars or lounges puts people at a higher risk for infectious illnesses and even diseases like oral herpes. This risk can be minimized by using disposable plastic hookah tips.

Less Risk of Teeth Staining:

While it may seem like hookah smoking doesn’t have any benefits, this is not the case. Dentistry IQ reports that hookah smoking is much better for your oral health. Due to the differences in the way hookah tobacco, or shisha, is manufactured, it does not stain the teeth as cigarette smoke does. This makes it a more sensible alternative to cigarettes for those who are aiming for a whiter smile.


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