August 4th, 2008
10:19 AM ET

The smoky truth on hookahs

By Sabriya Rice
Medical Associate Producer

Over the weekend, I went to a Greek bistro with friends and immediately noticed the lovely, fruity smell filling the room. That's when I saw an oddly shaped, smoky gadget passing from person to person. The hookah. I'm not a smoker, and really didn't think twice about it until the hookah passed by my table and several people adamantly insisted I have a puff.  When I mentioned I am training for a half-marathon and, for the sake of my lungs, I would have to decline, I was told "Relax!"  Followed unanimously by, "It's healthy and it doesn't do damage like smoking cigarettes!" Since the aroma didn't jar in me the same "ick" reaction cigarette smoke often does, I was tempted to believe them. I declined but the journalist in me naturally wanted more information.

The hookah has been used for centuries, particularly across regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as a means of smoking tobacco. It is essentially a water pipe, and many believe the water helps filter out the toxins from the tobacco.  Some historians believe the myth of the healthy hookah started more than 500 years ago, when an Indian physician offered the idea, essentially, as a means of boosting sales for his new device. Alas, despite its alluring, fruity aroma, the truth is, smoking the hookah is no safer than smoking cigarettes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hookah use carries many of the same risks as cigarette smoking including: exposure to high levels of toxic compounds, increased risk of oral, esophageal and lung cancers, reduced lung function and decreased fertility.  In fact the World Health Organization estimates the typical one-hour session of hookah smoking exposes a person to almost 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. And sharing the hookah puts smokers at greater risk for transmission of diseases including tuberculosis and viruses like herpes and hepatitis. And yes, secondhand smoke from hookahs poses an equally serious risk to non-smokers like me.

I guess the moral of the story is, don't believe everything you hear. If you're going to smoke, no matter what the fashion, it's best to be aware of the consequences. As for me, if I'm going to choose my poison, as they say, I suppose I'll just stick to my chocolate addiction and to my own personal myth that eating tons of chocolate is actually good for me. The good thing though, is that my lungs will be healthy enough to actually run my half-marathon, and, I hope, curtail some of the negative effects of my vice.

Has this ever happened to you? Are there any practices people tell you are healthy, but you're not entirely convinced?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

« Previous entry
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Zach

    Yes the moral of the story is that you shouldn't believe everything you hear cause the person who wrote this has no clue what they are talking about. First off there's really only one scientific journal paper out regarding hookahs and if you claim anything else such as this hear-say as scientific, then you have no right to be in the medical debate.

    Most importantly there is no smoke in hookah. The billowy clouds are fog clouds made the same way a fog machine works, by heating glycerin. So NO hookah does not equal the smoke of 200 cigs. Do any of these people making these claims understand the concept of the conservation of matter??? Tobacco burnt makes smoke and tobacco baked dry of its juices is the same weight that it started as meaning that you can't get smoke out of nothing. And yes, anyone who's cleaned a hookah bowl out after a session can verify that all the tobacco is still there. This also means that there is no tar in hookahs and any hookah smoker can attest that they are never wheezing and out of breath because of smoking hookah.

    Secondly I'd like to focus on the study that was done. The only test group that showed any statistically significant increase in blood carcinogen levels were the subjects in the heavy smoking group. This group had to smoke 120g of shisha a day which is almost 10 times the average bowl size. On top of that the test was Middle East base who's shisha is 60% tobacco and our American brands are about 15%, so to "smoke" the same amount of tobacco you would have to smoke about 40 "American type" bowls a day (there is not enough time in a day, not even close to be able to do that). Even most importantly, in this study and in the Middle East the coals are placed directly onto the shisha and not separated by foil like in American culture. When you take this fact it may be entirely possible that the American version of hookah has no carcinogens because we are truely baking it and not burning it in the least bit..

    So remember if a site starts talking about smoke volume, they have absolutely no clue what they are talking about (this includes the Mayo Clinic who had a doctor do google searches instead of looking at scholarly articles). I fell for the same crap at first too; I didn't smoke for the first two years that i knew about hookah. I now have degrees in Biology pre-Medicine and in Chemistry and am in the health care field, so I don't it likely when I argue that something isn't bad for you.

    February 6, 2013 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. asthma tips

    Asthma for a long time been associated with breathing indoor pollutants and toxic substances. Some Certain respiratory infections also increase the risk of an asthmatic condition.

    February 16, 2013 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Balllicker88

    Hookah is good for your lungs

    August 28, 2013 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Scott-ish

    I work at a hookah lounge and I don't necessarily disagree with the information discussed in this article. I do however believe it can be a better alternative to many cigarettes if kept within reason. As I've heard that many brands of cigarettes have chemical additives. As I stated this is what I've heard and not something I've investigated myself. I personally do not care for cigarettes and do prefer smoking hookah. From what I've been able to discern about the various brands and forms of shisha they tend to remain relatively chemical free which is something does appeal to me. I also find that smoking does help me calm down (likely due to the decreased oxygen intake due to smoking and other potential factors). I'd rather smoke hookah than spend my time in a major city breathing in all the fumes from car exhaust.

    December 16, 2013 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George

      thank you so much


      September 18, 2019 at 07:05 | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      thank you so much


      September 18, 2019 at 07:05 | Report abuse |
  5. indiabongs00123

    indiabongs E CIGARETTE, Cigarette Holder and Buy Hookahs are best hookah for the culture of hookah in India. Visit shopping different hookah pipe today and get more benefits.

    May 14, 2015 at 04:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. préstamos

    ¿Necesita un préstamo rápido por Internet o un préstamo por Internet? Consulta nuestra oferta. http://prestamosrapidostrds.es/

    January 6, 2021 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. vardenafil cheap

    Thank you for your entire labor on this web site. My mom really loves managing investigations and it is obvious why. My partner and i learn all regarding the lively tactic you present rewarding techniques through your web site and in addition invigorate response from some others on the situation then our favorite princess is really starting to learn a whole lot. Take advantage of the rest of the year. You have been doing a stunning job. https://joneslawncarela.com/

    January 7, 2021 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. cheap pamelor

    I precisely desired to say thanks again. I'm not certain the things I could possibly have created in the absence of the actual creative ideas discussed by you concerning my concern. It absolutely was a very frustrating issue in my opinion, however , observing the very specialised strategy you processed that made me to leap over gladness. I am just happy for this information and in addition hope that you know what a great job you are always getting into teaching people thru your web page. More than likely you have never got to know any of us. https://pamelornortriptyline.com/

    January 8, 2021 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. endep cheap

    I enjoy you because of all your efforts on this site. Ellie enjoys doing internet research and it's easy to see why. All of us hear all concerning the compelling means you deliver good information by means of the blog and as well cause contribution from other people about this concept plus my daughter is being taught a lot. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You're the one carrying out a first class job. https://endepamitriptyline.com/

    January 8, 2021 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. bupropion prices

    I happen to be writing to make you understand what a terrific experience our princess undergone visiting yuor web blog. She picked up such a lot of things, with the inclusion of what it is like to possess an incredible teaching style to make the others without hassle thoroughly grasp specified tricky topics. You undoubtedly surpassed visitors' expected results. Thanks for showing those valuable, trustworthy, revealing not to mention unique tips on your topic to Sandra. https://wellbutrinbupropions.com/#

    January 9, 2021 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. sinequan cheap

    I precisely had to say thanks all over again. I'm not certain the things I could possibly have created in the absence of the actual creative ideas discussed by you concerning such concern. It absolutely was a real depressing concern for me personally, but considering a new professional fashion you handled it forced me to cry for delight. I'm grateful for the assistance and as well , expect you comprehend what a powerful job that you are carrying out educating men and women by way of a web site. I am certain you've never come across all of us. https://sinequandoxepin.com/#

    January 9, 2021 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. olanzapine

    Thanks for the suggestions about credit repair on this particular web-site. The things i would offer as advice to people is usually to give up this mentality that they buy at this point and fork out later. Being a society most of us tend to make this happen for many factors. This includes trips, furniture, in addition to items we'd like. However, it is advisable to separate one's wants from the needs. As long as you're working to raise your credit ranking score actually you need some trade-offs. For example you may shop online to economize or you can check out second hand outlets instead of high priced department stores intended for clothing. https://zyprexaolanzapine.com/#

    January 10, 2021 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. top cheap dumpster rental


    January 29, 2021 at 04:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rush.bailey1@gmail.com

    Explode your B2B sales with our Global Vape Shop Database and Vape Store Email List. Our Global Vape Shop Database contains contact details of over 22,000 cbd and vape stores from around the world and will help you to connect with thousands of vape shops in a click of a button! Our vape shop leads comes in an Excel spreadsheet and cover the most of the world!

    You will receive a copy of the Global Vape Shop Database and Vape Store Email List. This vape store database contains contact details for practically all the vape shops in English and non-English speaking countries, including USA, UK, Germany, France, Australia, South Africa, Canada, parts of Europe, Asia, Russia and CIS and the rest of the world.

    The vape shop leads come in an Excel .csv file and contain the following data: emails, websites, telephone numbers, addresses and social media links. The e-cigarette shop database is ideal for connecting vape wholesalers, manufacturers and e-liquid brands with vape shops.

    In addition to these vapor store leads, we also have individual databases of CBD stores, health food shops, convenience stores, supermarkets and an email list of ALL vape companies in the world. Our global vape shop database partially covers CBD shops because some vape shops sell CBD products.

    The entire data base is created using our proprietary Search Engine Scraper by Creative Bear Tech, the most advanced website and search engine scraper on the market that allows us to scrape comprehensive and niche-targeted marketing lists.


    February 5, 2021 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ClarkTauts

    c5ym9 t7om8 gyp1

    February 28, 2021 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Yong Kolin

    Hello this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


    March 2, 2021 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sena Filler

    bookmarked!!, I like your website!


    March 29, 2021 at 04:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Cristal Fabiszewski

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!


    March 30, 2021 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cherlyn Korenic

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am going through problems with your RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody getting the same RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    April 1, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. generic sildenafil cit

    sildenafil canada cost https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ sildenafil 100mg discount

    April 3, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. vardenafil 40 mg

    warnings for vardenafil https://vegavardenafil.com/ generic levitra vardenafil

    April 4, 2021 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. alprostadil injection video

    aloprostadil https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil ingredients 745-65-3

    April 4, 2021 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. generic tadalafil 40 mg

    tadalafil pills 20mg https://elitadalafill.com/ tadalafil tablets

    April 7, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. levitra (vardenafil)

    how long do the effects of vardenafil last https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil teva pharmaceutical

    April 12, 2021 at 05:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. viagra canada purchase

    viagra canada for sale https://canadaviagrastore.com/ generic viagra shipping from canada

    April 15, 2021 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

« Previous entry
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.