Is smoking hookah as bad as cigarettes?

Is smoking hookah as bad as cigarettes?

Hookah smoking is becoming very popular in the United States, especially with young adults. But many users are unaware of its possible health risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), during an hour-long hookah session, a smoker inhales 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. The American Lung Association has found that hookah smokers may absorb more of the toxic substances in the tobacco than cigarette smokers do.

A hookah, or “sheesha,” device is a water-pipe smoking tool that is usually used to smoke tobacco. Typically, smoking a hookah is a shared experience, with multiple people partaking from the same device. The practice is thought to have originated in Persia and India, and is now a staple in several Middle Eastern countries. Recently, it has also gained popularity in Europe.

Some people believe that smoking a hookah is safer than smoking a cigarette. The water bubbles when a smoker inhales, so some users think that the tobacco is filtered through this process. Also, since the tobacco comes in flavors such as apple and strawberry, it is smooth and less harsh than cigarette smoke. The sweet flavor and smell leads people, especially kids, to believe that it’s not toxic, experts say.

Hookah bars are appearing all around the country, none of which are required to post the risk associated with the habit. And since there isn’t a public health campaign raising awareness of the dangers of smoking hookah, many people continue to believe that it is safe.

Dr. Tony Hampton, primary care physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, states, “Many people don’t know just how dangerous smoking hookah can be.  It’s important for smokers to understand that the side-effects of smoking tobacco with a hookah are just as dangerous as with smoking cigarettes.”

“We are seeing hookah smoking becoming a growing social trend with young adults, so it is particularly critical to raise awareness of the health risks with this group.  Additionally, states and local governments can consider passing stronger laws regulating hookah use.”

There is growing research about the health problems associated with hookah smoking.  Tracey E. Barnett, from the University of Florida, told Reuters Health that “One-time [hookah] use can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or other diseases, including but not limited to tuberculosis, herpes, respiratory illnesses including the flu, and long-term use can lead to heart disease and many cancers.”

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  1. Great information! We have a couple of hookah bars up the street, which I’m sure have become even more popular in the years since the state banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

  2. Wow! I never realized the dangers involved in hookah smoking. Thanks for the info, Sandy! Great story!

  3. Great info but some is “common sense” — the one time use diseases mentioned including tuberculosis, herpes and respiratory illnesses including the flu come from who is participating – the same can be true from sharing anything.“The long-term use can lead to heart disease and many cancers which are the same as smoking anything else. One must think is it recreational or habit. Many recreational activities are not the healthiest.”

  4. Judith A. Carlson February 27, 2014 at 10:55 am · Reply

    Tried hookah a few separate times. I don’t understand the attraction – each time it actually felt like my throat was burning and everyone I was with laughed at me when I said so, so maybe it’s just me. I was a cigarette smoker at the time, too, so I’m sure it wasn’t that I wasn’t used to inhaling a toxic substance.

  5. Up to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette? We need stronger laws regulating hookah use or this smoking trend will continue to jeopardize the health of our young adults. Great article!

    • Actually, Diana we don’t need stronger laws. We need folks like you to mind your business and let people live the life they see fit. Folks of your ilk, with questionable proof, have done enough to inconvenience and ostracize smokers. Stay out of hookah bars if you are so worried. And save the “young adults” part for another crisis. Adults neither want nor need you to make decisions on their behalf. I bet you also support bans on harmless “vaping” under the notion that “we don’t know all the risks” or the even weaker argument that it “normalizes” smoking. Who died and left you in charge?

  6. I had no idea hookah was that bad for you. Good to know!

  7. I have never tried hookah…nor cigarettes, but definitely will be passing along to those I know who have…I wonder if there is any info out there about these oxygen bars?

  8. …How are there people in here that didnt know hookah could be bad for you?? If you are also the kind of person that is suprised by the fact that the sun can also be very bad for you than please, PLEASE, reach out to a book or anything that may lend information on the most basic of subjects before you enter the arena of discussing anything.
    Hookah, currently, is goverened by ALL the same laws as other tobacco products, so there is really no need to make more laws. I enjoy smoking loose leaf tobacco from a pipe from time to time, I enjoy all manners of alcohol from time to time, and I even enjoy carnal realtions from time to time. None of these should come as shocks to anyone who is a normal human being. Sometimes we, as rational human beings, do things that are not always the healthiest, but are enjoyable for some reason or another. Skydiving…safe and sane, probably not…fun? Very! Each person, at least in America, should have the right to engage in these indulgences as long as they are not actually harming the people actually around them. I, for one, experience much more real physical and mental pain hearing or reading about people saying or doing stupid things than being in a room enjoying a hookah with good friends. But unfortunatly we can’t pass laws, and rightly so, to protect me from the stupid people either.

  9. Hasse Karlgreen March 31, 2016 at 8:25 am · Reply

    Thank you for giving the information about hookah and cigarette. Cigarettes and hookah both are smoking product and the effect are same. Both are affecting our health. So, please avoid both.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.