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Drugs & Health Blog

Hookah Isn’t Harmless

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Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The NIDA Blog Team

Think smoking hookah is safe? Or at least safer than cigarettes? Think again.

A hookah is a type of water pipe. It uses charcoal to burn a tobacco mixture, then pulls the tobacco smoke through water and into a mouthpiece for users to inhale.

A recent study found that a typical hookah session delivers approximately 125 times the smoke, 25 times the tar, 2.5 times the nicotine, and 10 times the carbon monoxide as smoking a cigarette. Let’s break that down:

  • 125 times the smoke – Hookah smokers aren’t just inhaling water vapor. They also inhale smoke and all the chemicals that come with it.
  • 25 times the tar – “Tar” is a name for the cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes that build up in smokers’ lungs and prevent the lungs from cleaning themselves, leading to diseases and breathing problems.
  • 2.5 times the nicotineNicotine is the chemical that gets people addicted to smoking.
  • 10 times the carbon monoxide – Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas found in smoke and car exhaust. In large amounts, it can cause poisoning and even death. There have been cases of people having to go to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning after smoking too much hookah.

Tobacco by any other name…

Does this mean that smoking hookah is worse than smoking cigarettes? Maybe, maybe not; researchers are still looking into that. Part of the reason the toxins are so much higher in a hookah session is that people spend a longer time smoking the hookah in one sitting than it takes to smoke a single cigarette.

But people who smoke cigarettes tend to smoke more often, so it’s hard to compare how hookah and cigarette smoking habits affect a person overall. Keep in mind that water pipes don’t require the same kind of labeling that cigarettes do, so you have no way of knowing what you’re smoking.

The bottom line is that smoking hookah isn’t safe. Some people think that the water in a hookah somehow filters out the dangerous chemicals in tobacco, but that’s not true. Hookah smoke is still tobacco smoke.

Also, even if you aren’t taking puffs from the hookah yourself, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, whether from cigarettes or water pipes.

Know before you smoke

Cigarettes are becoming less popular with teens, but some studies indicate that other types of tobacco—including hookah—are becoming more popular. In the annual Monitoring the Future survey, about one out of every five 12th graders continues to say he or she has smoked hookah in the past year.

The World Health Organization and other health groups say that more should be done to educate people about the dangers of hookah smoking. So, here’s our bit: Hookahs are full of chemicals, and they’re addicting, just like cigarettes. They’re just not safe.

Learn how using nicotine products (like hookah) can change the size of your brain.

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.


I actually watched the hookah being used in a night club, the young people were not teens only it was their parents. The harm that these families are inhaling is dangerous. People are not thinking of precautions to cancer, they don't share conversations in the home but can share smoking through a pipe? Where did this hookah come from, go back.
Well, i do not take drugs
good for you
Yuck!!! My Parents ARE Smokers/Will Always Be Smokers, Now THEY Are On THOSE E Smokes, Which IS Still Smoking, Which As Their Grown Up Daughter, I Have NEVER Liked, I DON'T Like Smokers, (I Don't HATE Smokers, I Just Don't CARE For Smokers Sick Habits Is All) AND Their HIPPY Smoker Friends, When Growing Up, Either (The Other Apartment Neighbors In The Seventies/Former Friends Of My Parents, Who Used To Visit THEM, In The Seventies, Because Pretty Much EVERYONE And EVERYBODY WAS Smoking Back Then!) Eventually My Parents Will Get Around To Virtual Reality Smoking, Which IS Still Smoking! (Smoking IS Smoking.) I Am 43, And I Grew Up Around THAT, And I Read That Second Hand SMOKE, IS Very TOXIC, And Sets One Up/Non Smoker, For A LIFETIME Of HEALTH Problems, Such As Thyroid AND Heart Health And OTHER Health Problems Too. THANKS ALOT, SMOKERS In MY Life! (NOT Very GOOD For The SMOKER Either, My Parents BOTH Wheeze Like DEATH, Especially My Father, He's ALWAYS Hacking Like DEATH'S Door, And Almost DID, Last Spring, And He Has That COPD Thing Going On With Him, And It's DEPRESSING, He's Even Had To Be On OXY Therapy A Few Times, Just In The Last Year, And Yet, He Just Keeps On Puffing On THOSE E Smokes, As Opposed To The REAL TOXIC Smokes Now)
The world is becoming a very sad place due to drugs and other harmful substances.
So hookah is just a pipe? It's weird what people can make and do with unusual objects

It's a water pipe, so users are inhaling both smoke and water vapor.

Where are they legalized in the us

Regulations on hookahs vary by state and local government in the United States. The University of Maryland has a 50 state survey of hookah regulations on this page:

Hooka is bad
The information on this is wrong, the tar and nicotine stats are I not correct. The monoxide is when quick lights are used which most people and bars do not use. Further testing needs to be done to see the lasting effects of hookah. Most of these stats are put out by the big tobacco companys to stop people from smoking hookah instead of cigs
Many people don't know that Hookah does contain nicotine, Which is very addictive.

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