Hookah smoking has become a popular social activity for many university and college students and is commonly seen as a cheaper and safer alternative to cigarettes. Many people remain unaware that hookah is associated with many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking. 1

Whether you are using tobacco, flavoured tobacco or marijuana, here’s the 411 on hookah.

Why is it a BIG deal?

Nicotine, carcinogens and other toxins including carbon monoxide and tar remain present in hookah smoke. 2, 3 Add to that the fact that higher levels of arsenic (rat poison), chromium (dye and paints) and lead (batteries) are found in hookah smoke compared to smoke from a cigarette (gross!). 4

Sure some of the nicotine is absorbed from the smoke as it passes through the water, but hookah users often inhale deeper and take more puffs to get the desired ‘buzz’. 2 So what? Well, this deeper, more frequent inhalation means that a typical 20-80 minute hookah session is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes, exposes you to up to 200 times the volume of smoke compared to a single cigarette and can triple your nicotine exposure! 5, 3

Just because hookah smoke is less irritating to your throat doesn’t mean it’s not doing damage. 2, 3 That occasional hookah session can lead to an increased heart rate and exposes you to toxins that may cause heart disease and lung cancer (who knew?!). 2,4

As if that isn’t enough; the wood, cinder, charcoal and other commonly used heat sources used to burn the tobacco give off high levels of carbon monoxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals when burned (so why risk it?). 5

So much for a safe alternative; smoking is smoking regardless of how you are doing it!

Hookah is not a harmless smoking alternative.
Want help quitting smoking?
Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist or visit the Leave The Pack Behind Team on our campus.

1 American Lung Association. Tobacco Policy Trent Alert: An Emerging Deadly Trend: Waterpipe Tobacco Use. February 2007
2 Centre for Addictions Research of BC. Making sense of misconceptions about Water pipes and bongs. (2006)
3 Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. Hookah or Water Pipe Smoking Fact Sheet. Retrieved December 16th, 2008 from http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/ach/cd/tobaccofacts.htm
4 Knishkowy B., & Amitai Y. Water-pipe (narghile) smoking: an emerging health risk behavior. Pediatrics, 2005, 116(1): 113-119
5 World Health Organization. WHO Advisory Note: Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators. WHO 2005
6 Maziak W., Ward KD., & Eissenberg T. Factors related to frequency of narghile (waterpipe) use: the first insights on tobacco dependence in narghile users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2004, 76:101-106