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Drugs & Health Blog

High School Seniors Are Taking Up the Hookah

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

NIDA’s 2013 Monitoring the Future study reported that more than 20%—that’s 1 in 5—high school seniors have used a hookah to smoke tobacco. A hookah is a pipe that burns flavored tobacco and passes the smoke through water before it is inhaled. It can have one stem to smoke from, or several stems so multiple people can smoke from the same pipe.

Hookah bars, frequently found near college campuses, are gaining popularity with young adults. The exotic flavors of “shisha” (a mixture of tobacco, molasses, and fruit used in hookahs) appeal to teens. There are dozens of flavors, including strawberry, lime, and chocolate. The social aspect of hookahs is another attraction, with groups of young people gathering for smoking sessions that can last for hours.

Tobacco Is Just as Harmful in a Hookah!

Many think that smoking tobacco through a water pipe is safer than smoking a cigarette, believing that the water filters out the harmful chemicals.

That’s a myth!

Hookah smoke contains the same harmful tar and other toxic chemicals that cigarette smoke has. Hookah smoking is linked to many of the same health problems as cigarette smoking—like heart disease and lung cancer. In addition, a typical hour-long hookah session, in which a person inhales several long, deep breaths of smoke, can equal as many as 100 cigarettes or more!

It gets worse. The tobacco in hookahs is heated with charcoal, which exposes you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Also, since hookahs are meant to be shared, you get exposed to germs, putting you at risk for all sorts of other nasty illnesses.

What’s the upside? We’re not sure there is one. Smoking a hookah might look cool, but it’s not much different than smoking a cigarette.

Tell us in comments, what would you say if your friends wanted to try out the local hookah bar?

For an update on hookahs, see the blog post, “Hookah Isn’t Harmless.” 

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


The simple fact is that Cigarettes are a mind altering substance that are overlooked constantly. If you are a regular cigarette smoker, and you don't smoke a cigarette for a few days- not only will you get a buzz when you smoke a cigarette, but you'll be irritable and discontent. Now is it as bad as heroin, crack, suboxone, or alcohol? No I wouldn't say so. But harmful yes. There has not been enough tests, studies, or enough TIME for the vapor cigarettes, to actually know the harmful effects. Hookah is soothing, can be spiritual, and is a social and unproblematic way of kids getting together and not getting wasted or causing a ruckus. Not only that, but in the harm to the body, would have to be 75% less than cigarettes. Due to the simple fact that hookahs are not portable, neither are hookah bars.
Interesting read, I should follow up to this, and tell me friends what risks they are facing.
I will tell my mom to quit doing it
hookah is great. and you shouldnt tell ur mom to stop, shes doing it because of you....
keshia i disagree if you dont care about your life i would say that but its not great its equal to 100 cigarettes
I honestly think that you can do it as long as you know what a risk your taking and also if u want go ahead but maybe do some research first.
It's a very high risk you take. Nicotine primes the brain for other addictions. And soon you can't stop. We need to look past instant gratification and find other ways to take risks that are safe and healthy.
Teens think that they are using a water pipe and it filters out the bad stuff but it doesn't but teens refuse to think that and continue taking the drug so not smart
Drugs are bad mckay
I need to do I project of health....but I think imma do this... it is really interesting,
It can be hard for a teenager to resist peer pressure, especially when you do not have strong morals and values to guide you. It boils down to the choice between looking cool and staying healthy.
I sorta want to try this or marijuana or any other not very addictive/dangerous drug once, just to see what it's like.

Individuals experience different reactions to drugs—related both to drug type and amount and whether it’s combined with something else and to a person’s particular genes, body type, environment, etc. Reactions can change over time as well. Also, all drugs have a risk for addiction. Learn more about what puts you at risk, view our video: Anyone Can Become Addicted to Drugs:

If my friend wanted to try out the local Hookah bar, I would un-friend them and take them to see a doctor or counselor.