An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Hooka smoke dangerous like other tobacco products

  • Published
  • By Hannah Williams
  • 375th Health Promotion Flight
Many Americans know hookah simply as the contraption that the caterpillar smoked in "Alice in Wonderland." However, hookah is making a mainstream come-back, entertaining the younger generation for hours in dark, smoky rooms of hookah bars or even sometimes their own homes. These youths often believe that there are fewer health consequences associated with smoking hookah than with smoking cigarettes. The hookah, which is sometimes referred to as hubble-bubble or waterpipe, consists of a tall apparatus containing water, wine or fruit juice, topped by a bowl containing tobacco, on top of which sits a hot coal. A hose attached to the apparatus pulls smoke, which has been filtered through the liquid, into the smoker's mouth. As a result, the smoke feels cooler on the throat and in the lungs than conventional cigarette smoke. The tobacco sold for use in hookahs, called, shisha, contains sweeteners and flavorings such as strawberry, cappuccino, coconut, mint, apple, watermelon, and more.

Hookah bars and cafes cater to the young audience, offering a place to gather for hours on end and smoke different flavors of shisha throughout the evening for very little cost. Circles of friends usually pass around the same mouthpiece, opening users up to shared infections such as tuberculosis, herpes and hepatitis. Furthermore, the smoker may inhale the smoke equivalent of up to 100 cigarettes in a typical hookah smoking session of 40 to 45 minutes. Due to the smoother, cooler feel and better taste of hookah smoke, users may inhale deeper and longer while smoking hookah than while smoking a cigarette, providing more exposure to the toxins and carcinogens from the tobacco. On top of the toxins associated with cigarettes, hookah smokers inhale some smoke from the coal itself, which contains carbon monoxide and even heavy metals. The high levels of toxins can lead to cancer of the lungs, esophagus, bladder and mouth, along with the increased risk of heart disease caused by exposure to nicotine. A common myth among hookah users is that the water filters out many of these toxic agents. The truth is, most of the agents pass through the liquid and enter the lungs. The American Lung Association warns that hookah smoke contains significant amounts of nicotine, tar and heavy metals. Even the nontobacco herbal shisha preparations contain toxins similar to those found in conventional tobacco, although they may have a lower nicotine concentration.

Researchers believe that secondhand hookah smoke causes many of the same health effects of secondhand cigarette smoke, with the added risk posed by the presence of coal smoke. Hookah is not a safe social pastime or alternative to smoking. For more information about hookahs, pipes, and e-cigarettes, or if you would like to quit smoking, dipping or chewing, call the Health Promotion Flight at 256-7139.