Is Smoking Hookah Safer than Smoking Cigarettes?

A hookah is a water pipe with smoke, a hose, a pipe and a bowl, also known as shisha, narghile or goza. Hookah is prepared from a specially made tobacco which is heated, and the smoke allowed to pass through water. The users then draw the smoke from a mouthpiece through a rubber hose. A hookah differs from a cigarette in the way it is used and how much smoke and nicotine they deliver to the smoker. Smokers usually lit a cigarette on one end, and the other end is placed in the mouth for a puff.

Contrary to the belief, the tobacco contained in the hookah pipe is no less harmful than in a cigarette. Also, the water in the hookah does not filter out any toxins in the tobacco smoke. Hookah users may even inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette users because of the large amount of smoke inhaled in a single smoking session. It is therefore vital to understand how hookah smoking is different from cigarette smoking and what each one can mean for your general health.

Hookah Smoking vs Cigarette Smoking

While the majority of hookah users think its use is less toxic than smoking a cigarette, research has shown it is not true. Risks associated with hookah smoking are more of the same as smoking cigarette. Nicotine, the same highly addictive drug found in other tobacco products is present in the water pipe smoking. Besides, the burning charcoal exposes tobacco contained in hookah to high heat, and thus the smoke is at least as harmful as that of cigarette.

Additionally, hookah users may inhale more of the toxic ingredients present in cigarette smoke than cigarette smokers themselves. The levels of the compounds in hookah smoke include carbon smoke, tar, carcinogens and heavy metals. The volume of smoke that hookah users inhale in a typical session is about 90,000 ml. On the other hand, cigarette smokers inhale 500 to 600 ml in a cigarette. While smoking an average cigarette may involve around 20 puffs, an hour-long session of smoking hookah will have 200 puffs.


Effects of Hookah and Cigarettes Smoking

Hooker smokers are at risk for some of the same diseases and health issues as cigarette smokers, which include:

  • Carbon monoxide exposure leading to dizziness, headaches, confusion and nausea
  • Risk of getting infected from sharing the hookah mouthpiece, which is sometimes poorly cleaned.
  • Low birth weight babies.
  • Babies with respiratory complications
  • Periodontal diseases
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Lung, oral, stomach and oesophagal cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Secondhand smoke from a hookah impose a risk for nonsmokers, just as in cigarette secondhand smoke


In a nutshell, smoking hookah is not in any way safer than smoking cigarettes. The smoke from a hookah comes in various flavours. However, there is enough evidence showing that it delivers more carbon monoxide, nicotine, volatile organic chemicals, tar, among other components in one session more than a handful of cigarettes. How much you smoke and the depth of inhalation is the bottom line to the comparison between hookah and cigarettes.

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