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Is Hookah Really Worse Than Cigarettes?

By HERWriter
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What Is Hookah and is it Really Worse Than Cigarettes? eugenesergeev/fotolia

After hearing several people telling me that hookah is "ten times worse than smoking cigarettes," I decided to do some research and find some past articles and studies on hookah and its health risks as compared to smoking cigarettes.

I personally smoke hookah a couple times a month but try to limit this habit, as it is still flavored tobacco and not the best hobby. However, it does taste decent and is fun to do with friends, as well as relaxing.

If you're wondering, "what is hookah," let me explain. It also goes by the names shisha, hubble-bubble, narghile and argileh. Hookah is a type of water pipe that can be smoked with flavored and sweetened tobaccos. There is a wide range of flavors to choose from, with everything from mint to fruity flavors. The tubes you smoke from are connected to center chambers housing water and tobacco.

So, is hookah bad? I found an old HealthDay article from Jan. 3, 2008 about hookah and cigarette smoking. According to the article, hookah has the same amount of carbon monoxide as a pack of cigarettes. However, it only looks at this toxic gas and not other health risks associated with hookah or cigarettes. So cigarettes could still be worse in other areas, like causing lung cancer.

In an older study by the World Health Organization in 2005, it was said that hookah is dangerous because smokers tend to be exposed longer to more smoke, as opposed to cigarette smokers.

"The waterpipe smoker may therefore inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes," the study said.

This is assuming that cigarette smokers only smoke from five to seven minutes long and hookah smokers only smoke from 20 to 80 minutes. Of course, longer smoking times mean more smoke is inhaled, which contains nicotine. This can cause addiction.

Basically, if hookah smokers limit their sessions and take from 8 to 12 puffs (like average cigarette smokers) instead of 50 to 200 puffs (like average hookah smokers), as well as limiting the amount of smoke inhaled, then there won't be as much of an issue.

It was also noted in another study found on the WHO Web site that physician-diagnosed chronic respiratory disease was found at a much higher rate in mixed (cigarette and hookah) smokers and waterpipe (hookah) smokers. Mixed smokers also showed more symptoms of chronic bronchitis (41.9%) than cigarette smokers (37%). Participants were only Lebanese people. However, it was noted that the difference between waterpipe and cigarette smokers was not "statistically significant."

Yet it was also stated that "for dose–effect relationships, a higher frequency of waterpipe smoking and cumulative exposure were statistically significantly associated with higher risk of having chronic
bronchitis and physician-diagnosed chronic respiratory disease."

So, in conclusion, hookah is not "10 times worse than smoking cigarettes," but it is easier to smoke for longer periods of time, which can definitely cause health risks. Also, according to one study, smoking cigarettes and hookah is probably not beneficial and hookah may increase your risk for chronic bronchitis and physician-diagnosed chronic respiratory disease.





Add a Comment14 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's very interesting how far the idiots in this world will go, willingly, to keep themselves in the dark. It doesn't take studies or test to tell you that hookah is bad for you, it only takes common sense. And really, the biggest issue is that much like smoking cigarettes, it's a lack of self-confidence that leads to it. I feel sorry for people that, for whatever reasons in their life, they are too insecure to turn down something that's obviously not good for you and also extremely lame. You realize that cooler and more secure people are laughing at you, don't you? Maybe find some confidence in yourself, get a little more introspection, get "deeper" as a person and show us what we should really be seeing in you. Don't dumb yourself down, don't be another nobody in the crowd, be something...and somebody. I'm sorry to offend, but trust me, you need to hear it. You're better than this.

March 31, 2016 - 11:07am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hoo-boy. You are dreadful. Instead of simply leaving your two-cents on hookah being bad, you had to elevate yourself whilst degrading the status of others. The only one with a lack of confidence here is you my friend.

November 10, 2017 - 3:57am
EmpowHER Guest

"According to one study, smoking cigarettes and hookah is probably not beneficial."

What a ridiculous sentence. According the *every* study, doing so is not only not beneficial, but a horrible health risk. By presenting the issue this way, you do an enormous disservice to readers.

March 18, 2016 - 11:50am
EmpowHER Guest

Walk into a hookah bar...You smell a light scent of flavoring and it is not disturbing at all...keep in mind this is a bar in which countless people let off steam.
Walk into a house hold where one person smokes...You can barely breathe, the smell and scent is disgusting...
Now this logic may seem worthless but cigarettes are stronger things. I have a friend who smoked cigs for a couple months (a pack every two days and ran track at the same time...he couldn't keep up. He quit, took up hookah (4-5 times a week) and has smoked it for a couple years and he says its not hurting his stamina at all...Call me crazy but I am sure cigs are worse.

January 24, 2013 - 1:16am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I completley agree. this studys are conducted by orginazetions that want ppl to stop sokming anything therfore unreliable. dont get me wrong its obviouly bad bad but to realy know and compare the demages it will take a longtitude of decades not years. as a health worker for now all i see is half of internal medicine departments filled with COPD patients with ciggerete smoking history.

February 9, 2016 - 3:47am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hookah really isn't that better honestly the smell isn't either. It's like smelling and tasting a flavored cigarette when smoking hookah its really not better. I think its the same.

August 29, 2015 - 3:13am
EmpowHER Guest

when smoking cigarettes the smoke is far more condensed than smoking shisha... the smoke comes from the end of the cigarette into the mouth and then into the lungs. shisha smoke travels through the head, down the pipe, into the water (bubbles around) through the hose, into your mouth and finally your lungs. Through all these stages the smoke is diluted with air and is far less concentrated than cigarette smoke. This is why these studies conclude that more smoke is inhaled when smoking shisha, when it is clearly not true. The smoke is also cooled, thus causing less damage to your throat, tongue, lungs, eyes, etc.

If you pay attention to the amount of tobacco that is placed in a shisha head compared to a cigarette, it is practically the same. So how can it be equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes??? Sheer mass proves otherwise. Not to mention the fact that cigarette tobacco is finely cut to fit as much tobacco as possible into each cigarette. Shisha tobacco is rough cut (if that) and is saturated in flavor and moisture.

This is simple logic.

August 3, 2012 - 1:13am
EmpowHER Guest

hookah is much safer than cigarettes. i enjoy both, however in hookahs you are not fully burning the tabacco, but in a way steaming or vaporizing it. When you scoop out the used shisha you will see that it is not burned, but shrunken down in size.(unless you over smoke it, gross) as long as you keep as much coal smoke out of the inhaled smoke you are fine. People over exagerate the effects of hookah. It is rather harmless and if you were really smoking the tabacco it wouldnt smell so good. where as smoking cigarettes leave a definite burning smell

July 17, 2010 - 9:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

I know there a lot of hookah smokers hate hearing that hookah is worse than cigarettes.

Well sadly, they are identical, if not worse.

In a hookah, you inhale it deeply so you are able to smoke rich silky smoke from your mouth, so you are inhaling all the sugar and tobacco. It takes 10 times as longer for hookah smokers to recover their lungs than cigarette.

The good thing about it is that it has very little, if none nicotine.

April 22, 2010 - 2:03pm
EmpowHER Guest

Rheyanne, thanks for your paper and the research you have decided to do. There are others sources and the WHO report in particular has been criticised in a medical journal.

See also :


September 22, 2009 - 10:52am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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