The Dangers of Hookah Smoking
Used for centuries, hookah originated in ancient Persia and India. It is typically practiced in groups, with a tube passed from person to person. It is known by many different names, including narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, and goza. But don’t be confused by the exotic names: hookah smoking is not safe. It carries many of the same health dangers as smoking cigarettes.
Hookah Use in the U.S.
- Hookah smoking is most common among university students
- In 2010, nearly one in five 12th grade students had used a hookah in the past year
- Youth and the community should recognize hookah use as a dangerous practice and not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.
Hookah is NOT a safe alternative to cigarettes
- Hookah smoke is as toxic as smoke from cigarettes and contains addictive nicotine
- Hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the same toxins found in cigarette smoke
- Using a hookah is equivalent to, and can be worse than, smoking cigarettes
- An hour-long hookah session includes 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs
- The volume of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is 150 times the smoke inhaled by a person smoking a cigarette
- Even after passing through water, hookah smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer causing chemicals
Health Effects of Hookah
- Hookah smoking has the same negative health effects as cigarette smoking, including:
- Cancer (oral, lung, stomach, and esophageal)
- Reduced lung function
- Decreased fertility
- Women giving birth to babies with low-birth weight
- Secondhand smoke is hazardous to non-smokers
Additionally, hookah smoking may transmit infectious diseases (such as herpes, tuberculosis, influenza and hepatitis) when sharing hookah mouthpieces
Alexandria Public Health Experts Comment on Hookah Use
“Smoking a hookah should be considered a ‘gateway drug’ – hookahs are a gateway to cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. There is NO safe level of hookah use.”
-- Stephen A. Haering, MD, MPH, FACPM, Health Director
“Selling sweet-flavored tobacco to naïve high school and college kids in a cool dispenser (a hookah) is really just selling kids candy-flavored poison in attractive packaging. I find those selling hookah products just as morally reprehensible as those selling hard drugs to our kids. Both are dealers in death and disease.”
-- Bob Custard, REHS, Environmental Health Manager
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Hookah website
- American Lung Association’s Hookah Smoking fact sheet.