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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.


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soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. smaseattle

    For a medical expert your facts are way off base. Lets take a look at the tabacco being used in a Hooka, it is nothing like that being smoked in cigarettes. Think about whole leaf tabacco guess what it does not have the additives that the big tabacco companies put into thier puducts. Also there is not the additive soaked paper that is being burned. The diffrence in smoking tobacco in a hooka is like the diffrence between eating a twinkie and eating a piece of cake that is made with all organic ingredients. Are either one good for you no but one is allot less harmful.

    August 4, 2008 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Riley

      >tobacco
      >allot

      For someone claiming to be more knowledgeable than this doctor, your spelling is horrendous.

      May 5, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Jdomn

      Smaseattle, Don't worry. We're not all idiots, like Rob, and could look past all TWO of your misspellings in order to understand the main idea of your post. Many of us also did not erroneously accuse you of being more knowledgeable than this doctor. Most rational people with proper comprehension will understand that you were simply pointing out an untruth in this article while using a rather effective simile. You have to admit that Rob couldn't say much more in response to you other than pointing out two little spelling mistakes and then categorizing your ability to spell as horrendous. How boring his life must be.

      June 2, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • Trolling

      You obviously missed this part, "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."
      Let's zoom in just in case you missed it, "carries MANY," Not All, but many. I don't believe he would disagree that, one is more harmful than the other. I also don't believe he once even insinuated that the hookah is the same, but merely similar. Similar in the fact that it's simply not healthy. So why exactly are you ranting? Perhaps you didn't fully comprehend the reading? Overlooked or misread? Comprehend a work before you start opposing it. You're literally arguing to no one, because your argument is based on a misinterpretation.

      January 26, 2013 at 02:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Chui8

    In defense of the good doctor, he did not say that smoking hookah is WORSE than smoking cigarettes. He said it carries some of the same risks, which is very true. Hookahs produce large amounts of smoke. Any smoke, whether from a hookah, cigarette, or housefire, is bad for the lungs.

    Also, the tobacco in the hookah is more concentrated than the tobacco in cigarettes, due to the fact that cigarettes replace it with alternative flavor enhancers. So, the hookah has more natural ingredients, as you said. It carries about .5% of the nicotine that cigarettes have and might I say, has a better flavor/aroma.

    So, what the doctor is ultimately saying is that the best course of action is to not smoke at all. I'm an avid hookah smoker and enjoy my cigars in moderation, which is how anything that can be potentially harmful to the body–alcohol, smoking, or extreme sports–should be used.

    August 4, 2008 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tarek

      Hey.. you actually didnt mention that the hookah conatins 0% of Tar.. which is available in the cigarettes.
      The amount of smoke that you get from the hookah are more than of the cigarette, but don't forget that the nicotine is only 0.5% and the Tar is 0%. So, it's less harmful than the cigarettes.

      December 19, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • hookah smoker

      actually..the shisha i use and most others contain 0.05% nicotine...not 0.5%...

      November 25, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
  3. skb

    smaseattle, "whole leaf tobacco sans additives" or not, you're still inhaling smoke which contains minute particles of soot and goodness knows what else which can irritate your lungs and become trapped in the alveoli and bronchial passages. You want to smoke a hookah? Go right on ahead. I won't stop you, but keep it out of my lungs, please, as I quit smoking a decade ago and have no desire to have that stuff in my lungs or body ever again.

    August 4, 2008 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H

    Oh, I am totally convinced. Hookah is just tobacco with flavor added.
    I have been asked the question about its safety on my website in the discussions.

    thanks for putting it straight.

    James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    http://www.myfamilydoctormag.com

    August 4, 2008 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Seth

    Every so called "study" I have seen on the effects of hookah have been terribly biased. It’s all common sense here. Smoking anything is not going to be good for you. When it comes to hookah there are a few factors that I would presume, make it less harmful than cigarettes. The tobacco used in shisha does not contain the chemical additives that are found in nearly all cigarettes. When hookah is smoked properly the tobacco does not burn either, at least not like it burns in a cigarette. You are essentially evaporating the glycerin, honey/molasses, and natural flavors soaked into the tobacco. Of course some amount of it is burned.

    I'm not sure why the CDC would compare the volume of smoke from a single cigarette to an entire hookah session (which can last 30-60 minutes+). Of course it’s going to be a lot more, no one wants piddly smoke while puffing on a hookah. Besides, most of the hookah smokers I know only smoke 2-3 times a week. My cigarette smoking friends go through packs a week. But again, only the ignorant claim its "healthy". You should get some more intelligent friends. I still have yet to see an honest study on the effects of hookah however. Not like it matters anyways, I choose to smoke; I know there are possible consequences, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to stop me.

    August 4, 2008 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nick

      no one wants to stop you. no one cares enough to try. if you want to be an idiot and shorten your life, then by all means go right ahead

      September 19, 2011 at 02:54 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      seth,
      Your the man. I love your honesty and agree with you 100 percent.

      November 9, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Well put Seth.

      August 19, 2012 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
  6. premak

    Ironically, I just went to a hookah lounge today and just came home to read this posting. I was long under the impression that hookah smoke is not as bad for you as cigarrettes, at least this is what I was told by my friends, However, during the session, I had a little difficulty breathing and was surrounded by endless plumes of smoke, I came home and did a little research, and my findings were confirmed by this article. Thanks for the post.

    August 5, 2008 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. MCM

    Often coupled with the Hookah Myth is the notion that marijuana smoke is less harmful than tobacco smoke. True or False?

    August 5, 2008 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • oll

      True. Not free of danger of course, but definitely true. Sadly made irrelevant by what seems to be a curious UK tradition of usually adding lots of tobacco in with the grass in a spliff, and dealers spraying weed to increase the weight.

      June 23, 2012 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
  8. chris

    what about the supposed filtering/ cooling affects of a water pipe? Obviously such a large quantity of smoke (one hour's worth) would negate it, but how does the water filter factor in?

    August 5, 2008 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      The water has zero filtration effect on the smoke. You might hear some bogus about the polarization of water (that's the most common one I've heard) and how the polarized molecules of water attract the bad things about the smoke, but unfortunately any high school chemistry student could tell you that's not true.

      Plus, even if there was some sort filter, people would just smoke more to get the same effect.

      July 30, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • JeHe

      OK Tim, a high school chemistry student may tell you there's no filtering effect by the water, so let a PhD chem egnineer set you straight. Water can "scrub" or strip polar compounds (by absorption) and particulates out of the smoke. The process is similar to that used in industry to remove harmful components of flue exhaust. Anyone who has spilled their b*ng water can tell you that the water is NOT as pristine as when it went in the b*ng, proving that something is being retained by the water. Now it won't filter all bad things out of the smoke, just the polar chemicals and soot. So I'm not saying that smoking a hookah or b*ng is healthy by any means. But to say the water has no effect on the smoke is inaccurate.

      Class dismissed.

      June 10, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • SteakandEggs

      Owned.

      December 3, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
  9. arpritchett

    I think we've established that inhaling any sort of smoke into your lungs is not exactly healthy be it cigarette, hookah, or camp fire smoke.
    However, I will say that in my experience it would seem that hookah smoke is less harmful (not harmless) as I've never had a problem inhaling it, where inhaling a cigarette has always made me want to vomit.

    Again, I'm not a medical professional, so I'm just saying what I've gathered from my own experience. For all I know, (scientifically speaking) it could be worse.

    August 5, 2008 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tina

    Am I understanding this correctly? The hookah is passed from person to person? So this means you are sharing a mouthpiece with people you don't know? Why in the world would you do that? Would you pass the same glass of water from person to person in a restaurant?

    August 5, 2008 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kas

      People typically have disposable plastic tips that they put on the hose to prevent the spread of germs. This may not be the case in home use, but commercial.

      June 25, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse |
    • Maxine

      Typically one does not get a hookah with a complete stranger. Most of the time it is a group of friends who are close. And let's be honest, you've most likely shared a bottle of water or soda with one of your friends before without thinking twice. It's the same thing.

      June 5, 2012 at 23:07 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Am I to understand this correctly that you've never smoked Hookah before? wow! So if you've never smoked hookah before, why do you care to comment on something you have no knowledge of? Ignorant much? Besides, You don't pass it from person to person with the same mouth piece on it. If you honestly believe we as people wouldn't have enough common sense to get your own or ask for one from the person your smoking it with. Then you rightfully deserve to get the germs and infections for being a dumb. Clearly you just wanted to post your ignorance to "Bash". So in regards, this is me "Bashing" you for being such a clueless moron for degrading something you didn't take the time to experiment with. Regardless if you smoke or not, if you don't know about something. Don't speak! I dislike people like you who secretly try to "Bash" in a confused way. Then again you must walk through life confused yourself huh. JUST SHUT UP!

      January 28, 2013 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
  11. Lauren R., USA

    No such thing as a safe cigarette. If nicotine were to have never been used and only discovered today, can you imagine the outroar oveer people stuffing a plant in paper and lighting it on fire? There's good reasons why no other plant is stuffed into paper and lit on fire. It's disgusting and dangerous, and yes, it does kill or maim in some way EVERYONE who uses it, eventually, and many who don't. I like to read books. Can you imagine a scenario where my reading would cause not only me to get eye cancer but also the person next to me, too? Books would be INSTANTLY outlawed.

    Sincerely, a non-smoker (though not nicotine-free, thanks to smokers and the business of death called the tobacco makers).

    August 5, 2008 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lois

      Two words: FREE COUNTRY

      April 30, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Really? No other plant in the world is stuffed into paper and lit on fire? I can't believe you've never smoked a j. You should try it sometime, it's pretty nice.

      September 9, 2011 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
  12. Jason

    Thank you for this insightful post. I enjoy smoking hookah every now and again. I will probably not quit smoking hookah altogether but I will certainly reduce the number of times I do participate.

    August 5, 2008 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Michael Moore

    Thanks, Sanjay, from San Antonio,for your amazing contributions to the LIVESTRONG Summit in Columbus last week. Both my sister and I were attending as delegates and we wanted to let you know how much your input was appreciated. Take good care-

    August 5, 2008 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. SalutaryBlog.com

    My friends claim that smoking marijuana is not bad for you, and, in some cases, that it is actually good for you. The argument stems from smoking cigarettes, which we all know is harmful. However, for "smoke" to be created, some kind of reaction must take place. I was assured that carbon monoxide is created due to this. Please let me know.

    August 6, 2008 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Denny Nolden, New Smyrna Beach Florida

    It is hard to believe that anyone can defend any kind of smoking on any ground whatsoever after almost 50 years of scientific research has found and re affirmed time after time basically the same results. Smoking Kills! Defending any kind of smoking is sooo...... 1960's! But when your superhero is the Marlboro Man, Budweiser is your thirst quencher and a twinkie is nourishment, what can you expect. By the way, passing that thing around seems like a good way to pass around a nice staph infection too. Dr G. keep up the good work!

    August 6, 2008 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jdomn

      Few people actually claim that hookah is not harmful at all. Most will agree that anybody who does is totally naive. Most people simply claim that hookah is not as harmful as cigarettes. This is not at all an outrageous claim considering everything that goes into a cig, the heat of the smoke, and the consistency of a cigarette addiction. There is almost no scientific research out there that honestly analyzes the effects of moderate to rare hookah smoking. Hopefully this will change. That way, if it is as terrible as I suspect, some people may stop. At the very least, this annoying "debate" will stop.

      June 2, 2012 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  16. AWH

    To salutaryblog.com and MCM:

    Marijuana smoke is pretty terrible for you. Joints, or unfiltered marijuana cigarettes contain more tar per volume of smoke than the average cigarette. Water pipes ("bongs") that resemble a hookah in concept are actually worse – the water cools and cleans the smoke somewhat, but it also clears out THC (delta-9 tetrahydracannibinol, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana) thus requiring more exposure to get high.

    THC in and of itself is not harmful to the lungs (as far as we know). THC actually produces an expectorant effect, and this makes THC useful (for coughing up phlegm, etc) if one can solve the smoke problem. the primary issues with marijuana via smoke inhalation involve CO (carbon monoxide) and other carcinogens produced from direct combustion (applying fire to plant matter) of chlorophyll.

    An alternative method of using marijuana (via inhalation) centers around a concept called "aromatic vaporization." THC is a fat soluble aromatic compound that vaporizes around 180 degrees C. Cellulose and chlorophyll burn (combust and produce smoke) at closer to 350 degrees C. A heat source that vaporizes THC and then allows it to be inhaled is called a vaporizer. When marijuana is studied academically, vaporization is the preferred method of inhalation, as it isolates THC and other cannibinoids present in marijuana. Controlling a study is easier this way.

    Smoke in general is bad for you – any particulate matter that gets into your lungs is going to cause irritation, and make your lungs work hard to expel said matter. Marijuana smoke has potential therapeutic benefits for some, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still smoke inhalation.

    August 6, 2008 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. MCM

    TO AWH

    I was with you until last paragraph – then I got confused. Are you saying vaporization does or does not create particulate matter that gets in your lungs?

    And, thanks for the education! 🙂

    August 7, 2008 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Mingo

    Re: Marijuana smoke vs tobacco smoke: Dr. Gupta refers to the standard stats – 7 times more tars in Cannabis than cigarettes. However, there is no real world data to associate this with lung function. In fact, as CNN reported last year, 2 recent studies have shown marijuana smokers not to have an increased rate of lung cancer over the general population.
    The answer is two-fold: 1st, as Duffy said in "Sugar Blues", the added sugar in cigarettes (burns faster,tastes better) caramelizes upon burning, trapping the toxins deep in the lungs.
    2nd, tobacco is a bronchial constrictor, worsening the effect, while Cannabis (marijuana) is a bronchial dialator and expectorant – the reason our ancestors used it for asthma!
    Dr. Gupta can see more objective research on the effects of using Cannabis, including a study of the U.S. government's IND legal Cannabis patients (some recieving it for over 20 years), at http://youtube.com/cannabistherapeutics

    August 7, 2008 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Lauren

    Thank you for posting this. I was an enthusiastic hookah smoker my first couple years in college (I'm not out of college yet but have since quit. There was a point at which I was smoking hookah at the local lounge 2-3x per week). No one seems to want to admit that smoking hookah is bad for you, although I had a feeling it probably was when I PASSED OUT from it one night at the lounge. I did and do not have any health conditions such as hypoglycemia to attribute the fainting episode to. When this happened my friend smoking with me at the time was alarmed, only to be reassured by the owners that this happens frequently and to just have me lie down and give me water.

    Though people are always arguing whether or not hookah is addictive, I believe it is. There is no doubt it is socially addicting. It was my break from the social aspect that has helped me to quit.

    So I guess, as tempting as it is to hang out at a hookah lounge–especially when you aren't 21 yet and have less options for a night out–my advice would be to stay away from the hookah pipe.

    August 7, 2008 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rose

      Hello. I actually recently passed out at a hookah bar. I was wondering if it was because I inhaled too much or something was in my drink. How was your experience? Did you just pass out or did anything else happen?

      January 17, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
  20. Lauren Gresh

    What about non-tobacco mixes? I doubt those would do any harm.

    August 7, 2008 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maxine

      That's a good question. It makes me curious.

      June 5, 2012 at 23:12 | Report abuse |
  21. Mark Pedersen

    So much old information about Cannabis. And when I say old, I mean decades old. Most, upwards of 70 years old. I don't know how anyone who calls themselves a physician would be so neglectful of the CURRENT science, even if the cameras ARE rolling.
    Cutting-edge Information about the therapeutic use of Cannabis is, unfortunately, contained in the minds and databases of apparently a very small few. It's time America learns the truth. People's lives hang in the balance. We can’t wait for the news media to get a conscience.

    We have a video by Dr. Denis Petro, consulting Neurologist for the Multiple Sclerosis Patients Union that was taken in December of 2003. In it, he talks about his 20 years worth of research on medicinal cannabis and no less than 7 documented clinical studies that demonstrate the medical benefits of cannabis.
    Petro, whose research regarding Cannabis spans over 25 years, is frustrated by our government and media's refusal to recognize what other countries the world over already accept for years, Cannabis is real medicine.
    "Drug companies only want to do research on something that will bring money down the road." Concluded Petro. Might I add, physicians tied to news agencies appear to be umbilically tied to pharmaceutical company propaganda. Seems all they can spew are half-truths and out-right lies.
    I have personally interviewed hundreds from all over this country who use "smoked" cannabis medicinally. Some for as much as 45 years. I currently have over 70 interviews on YouTube and the numbers are growing daily. Please feel free to watch them. Their stories are real and first person. http://www.youtube.com/cannabispatientnet

    Yes, smoking cannabis can irritate the lungs. Let's clarify, "irritate". God, how I hate half-truths...and it seems, CNN's medical advisers are full of them!
    Any medicine that irritates lung tissue can be dangerous for someone whose respiratory system is already compromised. But, if you remove or dramatically reduce the irritant(s), the end product can not only be safe, it can provide freedom from pain and help the body to heal and fight disease. Stop throwing out the baby with the bath water!
    Vaporization of Cannabis has been endorsed by physicians the world over, as well as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. They consider Cannabis to be so important that they maintain a twenty person task force, made up of distinguished Dr’s, RN’s, MD’s, and PHD’s.
    Other organizations that have recognized Cannabis as medicine include the American College of Physicians, the second largest physician organization in the country, and the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association, a branch of the largest medical association in the country. The AMA will vote on endorsing Cannabis in November.
    To the best of my knowledge, that pretty much takes in ALL physicians in this country.

    For more REAL information and Testimonies from REAL people, check out these sites.
    http://www.cannabistv.net and http://www.cannabispatient.net . Many, many more great sites out there. It’s not that hard to find the truth.

    “First, do no harm”, Doctor. When you suppress or subvert vitally important information from the chronically ill, you harm them.

    Mark Pedersen
    Cannabis Patient Network

    August 7, 2008 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Trish

    Smoking, regardless of the substance, is still smoking. I watched my mother go from a vibrant woman who loved life (and her cigarette addiction) to a shrivelled woman who had to have oxygen forced into her lungs with a Bi-Pap before she died of end stage emphysema, weighing about 70 pounds. Most people think this will never happen to them, and I'm sure my mom did, too. She was 67 years old. It was a horrible way to die – gasping for breath amid the panic attacks. The doctor told her she had no lungs left.

    At her visitation, one of her friends told me that they had urged my mom to quit, but she told them she "loved the taste." She had even told my mother-in-law at my wedding that she would "rather die than quit smoking." She got her wish.

    In my opinion, smoking is never healthy, regardless of what it is one is smoking.

    August 7, 2008 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Courtney

    My fiance has been smoking hookah constantly (all day, every day) for the past 10 years and his doctors can't even tell that he smokes. I, on the other hand, smoked cigarettes for only 6 years and my doctors could tell that my lungs were being affected and I had bronchitis. After quitting cigarettes and switching to hookah, my bronchitis has gone away. I have been smoking only hookah for the past 2 years and it has been wonderful – much, MUCH more enjoyable than cigarette smoking.

    On a second note, my birth father has always had an issue with his lungs making him unable to fully inhale smoke from any smoking device (cigarettes, cigars) EXCEPT for the hookah. It does not irritate his lungs at all, and it is the only thing he can fully inhale. Also, it's really fun to make your own tobacco and experiment with flavors.

    I must say I have yet to see a "real" study done on hookah. Whatever. I love it, my family loves it, and it's super fun and relatively harmless!

    August 17, 2008 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. AWH

    To clarify: vaporization of any substance involves pushing heated air through that substance to remove the active compounds without actually burning the substance. A vaporizer (Such as the Volcano) can't ignite plant matter. The heating element doesn't get hot enough. Vaporization doesn't involve inhalation of particulate matter. What you inhale is more like a very fine mist. This mist is actually an air/oil emulsion of the THC and other aromatic cannibinoids in marijuana, though it looks somewhat similar to smoke.

    August 19, 2008 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    The Hookah is a pleasant experience. Most popular in Turkey and the middle east–the tobacco "turds" made for the hookah–are not contaminated with the dozens of chemicals American cigarette companies put in their tobaccos to addict U.S. smokers. It's pure tobacco. The smoke doesn't make you cough..and hookah smokers generally smoke in Chai houses and bars–so they traditionally do not smoke (nor inhale) as much as the typical American cigarette smoker.

    My point of view–for those who must continue smoking–get turkish tobacco–and use the hookah...as much of the tar (#1 cause of lung cilia damage) is removed in the water–providing a pleasurible and probably a little healthier smoke.

    August 20, 2008 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. NMM

    According to a study done by multiple researchers (Dr. Eisenberg in Virginia, and 3 other researchers in Lebanon and Syria), the hookah smoke was analyzed during a 45 minute session of smoking 10g of fruit flavored tobacco, using 17 second long puffs, 30 seconds apart. The amount of nicotene that survived the water filtering and made it to the mouth piece WAS EQUAL TO A PACK OF CIGARETTES (quantity of 20 , 1g cigarettes )!! The amount of carbon monoxide (CO) detected was equal to 16 packs of cigarettes. The reason for high carbon monoxide content is due to the fact that we have incomplete conbustion in hookah : The charcoal is separated from the tobacco via the aluminum foil. The high CO is the reason why we feel dizzy if we dont breathe enough between puffs: minimizing oxygen getting to our brain.

    Also trails of Aluminum was found in the water, suggesting the presence of Aluminum compounds in the smoke. Aluminum compounds can cause Alzheimers in a long run.

    The only 2 positive thing about the hookah smoke (vs cigarette smoke) is the absence of TAR, since there is no full combustion in hookah, and the absence of paper. But the 4900 metal compounds that our lung doesnt know how to get rid of, is common between the two.

    I smoke hookah once a week, but just wanted to share this info with people who smoke hookah so they are aware ..

    November 9, 2008 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Zach

      Dr. Eisenberg's study is very non-specific and completely unscientific. There is a whole video on youtube debunking his whole study

      February 6, 2013 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
  27. Tami

    Is there thc in the hookah tobacco?

    December 19, 2008 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Fran

    I think this whole discussion is ridiculous. I honestly can not believe that Americans have all these resources to get educated about a subject and still post very uneducated statements about something as simple as smoke. It\'s actually very simple! Any kind of smoke going into your lungs, whether it\'s cigarettes,hookah,weed etc is BAD for you. The human body\'s lungs are not meant to hold anything but oxygen, and honeslty even that is not completely true because the body can not hold oxygen for long periods of time(hence unless you\'re super human you probably can\'t hold your breath for very long). All I\'m really trying to say is you know the facts already SMOKE IS BAD so if you choose to do it don\'t be surprise if you suffer the consequences later in life!

    June 17, 2009 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. VAPORIZER

    well its my first time to heard that hooka. its good to know about this. The point here is that people should do a research before trying to use that hooka. Why just use vaporizer? it is safer than smoking.

    July 1, 2009 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Gregg

    you say it right in the article, "don't believe everything you hear." I find it hard to believe that you can smoke two hundred cigarettes in an hour = 3 1/3 per minute even smoking nonstop(meaning hookah smoke must be more potent somehow which is hard to believe as well), you give no research to back up your finding, and you are a running health nut who is obviously death to smoking. Reasons one two and three I don't believe this article to a "T". I'm not a moron I know that smoking anything is bad for you but I think you went a little over the top here. I look forward to any rebuttal you choose to send my way.
    Gregg

    July 25, 2009 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jdomn

      Hey Gregg, I agree with you. The 200 comparison is a bit sensational. I suspect they get that number because a hookah creates much more smoke than a cigarette, so there is much more second hand smoke. Also, the draw from a hookah can be much much longer than from a cigarette. On average, when smoking a cigarette, smokers probably get what 10-20 decent draws or maybe a bunch of tiny puffs. In a few minutes, the cig is gone. With a hookah you can take as many lung-fulls as you can handle for far longer than a few minutes. On the flipside, a person addicted to cigarettes may go through say 10 packs a week and regularly smoke throughout the day, while a moderate hookah smoker may do this once in a blue moon.

      June 2, 2012 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
  31. shaquia

    I carry my own individual exposure to blazing bud, and no matter how often users claim "it's very good in this" and "beneficial regarding that", I can tell you that it almost harmed my life man! Look, I am aware of that there are individuals who can merely up and quit, but there's a lot of other folks who've the toughest time wanting to quit smoking weed. The primary trouble with being dependent on marijuana is usually that the desire is usually a mental one, not necessarily bodily.

    March 2, 2010 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Travis

    Im a college student who likes to smoke hookah occaisionally. I have reently been reading up on the effects and came across this paper that you might find interesting : http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/5/1/19

    August 2, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. JuJoO

    It's interesting how many people are saying it's harmless and all studies are biased. Gregg, I agree with you that she had no research references other than WHO and Centers for Disease Controls (without actual citation), so her arguments are plausable, but not "properly" supported. However, if many people are saying that the studies that say it's bad are biased, then enlighten me on studies that prove it to be healthy. And courtney, just because you feel better, doesnt mean it's better for you. You feel on top of the world after a heart attack, but you're not.

    August 6, 2010 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Hookah

    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.

    September 23, 2010 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Alexis

    Im a high school student who has been smoking hookah for quite some time. I plan to buy my own and take it to college. But since reading all these posts im scared and concerned for my health, should I quit? I'm also scared about getting diseases through the tubes, can I still contract diseases if I use my own mouth piece?

    May 8, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Quit Weed

    Greetings! I've been following your website for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

    June 10, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. vid

    You are a dumb bi*** f*** you and your chocolates...people in the middle east have been smoking these for years its not as bad as ciggarettes

    June 13, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. wendy

    vid just because people have been smoking it for years doesnt make it any less harmful O.o

    November 5, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Alex

    YOLO

    February 16, 2012 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. end smoking now

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to generate a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and don't manage to get nearly anything done.

    March 7, 2012 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. herbal vaporize

    Hello, i feel that i noticed you visited my blog thus i came to return the choose?.I'm attempting to find issues to improve my website!I suppose its adequate to use a few of your ideas!!

    April 2, 2012 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Wurbs

    Its common sense, if you tell someone to sit down for an hour and smoke cigarettes one after the other the will be sick, coughing, throwing up, and even passing out. If you tell someone who has never smoked before to smoke hookah for an hour there going to be just fine, it happens all the time in hookah bars.

    Is it perfectly safe, no. But it is A LOT less dangerous than you are dramatizing it to be.

    May 24, 2012 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. matt

    Here is what you didn't mention; your right, one hookah session takes in 200 times the volume of smoke than a cigarette, but what your wrong about is that your not taking in smoke, your taking in VAPOR. When you light a cigarette you are burning the dry tobacco and it turns to ash, ultimately producing tar with smoke that is extremely hot, actually, you can set off a fire alarm with cigarette smoke. Hookah tobacco is natural tobacco, honey, glycerin, and/or molasses. the tobacco gets baked by the coals, causing the glycerin and the other juices to heat up into a thick vapor containing absolutely 0 tar and a minuscule amount of nicotine. Next time you say its worse than smoking 100 cigarettes, sit me down with somebody, ill smoke the hookah they will smoke 100 cigarettes and let's see who throws up first.

    August 1, 2012 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. John Burchfield

    Ok, yes 200 times more smoke is produced. BUT shisha, or hookah tobacco, contains only .05% nicotine and does not contain any tar. So that makes it more healthy. Just look at an al fakher shisha package.

    August 28, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Bryan

    Smoking hookah is not really smoking, it is heating up the tobacco by use of coals (which do contain high levels of carbon monoxide –not good) as well as the glycerin (to increase smoke volume and is not harmful) and the flavoring (various chemicals). This VAPORIZES the tobacco, it does not set it on fire like tobacco. The tobacco itself contains the same carcinogens as cigarettes, however the same amount (some is, but less) is not translated into the "smoke" of the hookah. Additionally, I think people believe the water cools down the smoke (which it does) and doesn't necessarily remove the carcinogens. Cooling down the smoke does indeed make the smoke less damaging to the lungs.

    January 2, 2013 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Bryan

    Also, it is not nearly as addictive as cigarettes. I've gone from smoking hookah every day at least once for months to not smoking for a month with NO consequences or side affects. No nausea, no cravings, nothing....

    January 2, 2013 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. harry

    seth you truly are the man

    February 2, 2013 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jackson hole

    I have ran 4 Marathons and I smoke hookah 4-5 times a week..............

    February 3, 2013 at 03:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Alex

    I"m tired of the myth of the myth...

    While hookah isn't healthy for you (unless you consider the therapeutic and cognitive enhancement effects), it is NOWHERE near the level of danger of cigarettes, cigars, or dip.

    The tests done that show how "dangerous and unhealthy" shisha tobacco is, was poorly conducted. Why? Because the test they perform to see how much tar and residual chemicals are in a tobacco product, they incinerate it, like you would with a cigar or cigarette. However, in a hookah, you do NOT incinerate or even BURN the tobacco, unless you're doing it wrong. You are merely vaporizing the glycerin, nicotine, flavoring, and honey/molasses. Whatever trace chemicals that are actually taken in by your body are insignificant. You'd inhale more nasty chemicals working at a factory or body shop for a day.

    I'm tired of hearing these debunked "deadly hookah" myths going around what is supposed to be a "professional" medical community, and spread by the misinformed public/media.

    Whatever minor threats hookah poses to me, I'd MUCH rather take those than the VERY real and dangerous risks of cigarettes.

    February 3, 2013 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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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.