Is Smoking Hookah Bad for You?





The hookah, also known by other names such as shisha, narghile, waterpipe and Qalyan, is a popular trend in many bars, cafes and lounges across the world. Having a tradition that dates back centuries, the hookah has been a favorite among the kings and noblemen of bygone years and it continues to charm people even today. Its origins are somewhat unknown; some say that it was originated in India. Others are of the opinion that the Turks or Persians are to be credited for inventing the hookah.

The hookah involves a glass-bottomed waterpipe where fruit-flavored tobacco is enclosed with foil and then roasted with charcoal. The smoke of the tobacco passes through the water chamber, which is then inhaled slowly and deeply. The fruit-flavored tobacco has a sweet smell and it tastes sweet. Ardent hookah lovers suggest that smoking hookah is a very unrushed and enjoyable experience.

Many people consider smoking hookah is safer than smoking cigarettes as the smoke of hookah is first filtered through the water before one inhales it. The water is believed to prevent all the harmful chemicals present in the tobacco. However, recent studies conducted by the World Health Organization suggests that smoking hookah can be more dangerous than smoking a cigarette and can cause even more health damage. Hookah smokers get even more smoke than the cigarette smokers. In fact, a few hours of smoking hookah is equivalent to almost smoking 100 cigarettes.

Cigarette smoke gets uncomfortably hot if the smoker inhales the smoke too deeply. The hookah smoke is cooled by the water that it passes through. An individual has to inhale the smoke hard so that it passes through the hookah. Due to this, the smoke penetrates deeply into the lungs. Hence a huge volume of smoke enters into the lungs of an individual in a typical session of hookah smoking.

Results of WHO’s study on hookah smoking

The research conducted by WHO gives us an in-depth analysis about the side effects of smoking hookah. It suggests that hookah smoking can do more harm to one’s health than cigarette smoking.

Hookah smoke contains a much higher level of carbon monoxide and heavy metals than the cigarette smoke. This is due to the charcoal that is burnt atop the tobacco mixture.


Smoking hookah for around 45 minutes is equal to smoking nearly 50 tobacco cigarettes.

The level of chromosomal damage caused inside the mouth due to hookah smoking is same as caused by cigarette smoking.

World Health Organization also suggests that hookah smokers have more exposure to various carcinogenic substances as well as hazardous gases like carbon monoxide. Just like cigarette smokers, regular hookah smokers are also prone to suffer from cancer, heart diseases as well as breathings and respiratory problems. Women and girls smoking hookah frequently can experience the same adverse effects of cigarette smoking. Pregnant women may experience adverse effects such as miscarriages, detachment of placenta, ectopic pregnancy, bleeding or premature birth.

Effects of Smoking Hookah

The ALA or American Lung Association considers smoking hookah can cause significant damage to one’s health. The various health problems that can result from hookah smoking are listed below:

  • Oral cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Impaired pulmonary function
  • Labored breathing
  • Esophageal carcinoma
  • Gastric carcinoma
  • Heart and cardiovascular diseases
  • Reduced fertility in men
  • Pregnancy and birth-related problems in women
  • Babies being born with low birth weight
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes

A normal cigarette usually lasts for only 5 minutes. However, a normal session of hookah smoking can last for anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Studies reveal that a single session of hookah smoking can have the following effects on a human body.

  • Absorption of tar 36 times that of the tar given out by cigarette smoke.
  • Production of nicotine 1.7 times that of produced by a common cigarette.
  • Hookah smoke produces 8.3 times more carbon monoxide than that produced by a cigarette.
  • An hour of smoking hookah can produce 50 l of smoke. On the other hand, a single cigarette can deliver only 0.5 l of smoke.

Dangers of sharing a hookah mouthpiece

While smoking hookah in a bar or lounge, hookah smokers can communally choose to share their own mouthpiece with another person. It is not advisable to share the mouthpiece while smoking hookah as this can spread numerous diseases like tuberculosis, herpes and hepatitis.

Although there are a lot of myths that suggest that hookah is a harmless way of smoking, there is nothing harmless about this age-old practice. Hookahs can cause more harm to the body than cigarettes. Long-term smokers of hookah often experience increased dependency on hookahs. Many teenagers and youngsters who try out smoking hookah out of curiosity and believe it is a safe form of smoking often get addicted to it over time. Later on, many prefer to switch to cigarettes as they are light and can be handled easily. The various ill health effects discussed above proves that smoking hookah is not as safe as it is often believed to be. Hence it is always advisable to abstain from smoking hookah.

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