Hookah Risks

Published: June 02, 2014
Dear TeenHealthFX,

I am wondering what the health risks are for smoking hookah. I have done a little research, but I just want to know what the effects would be if I were to smoke it, even if it was just once to try it. I have never smoked or done any kind of drugs before so I am curious.

Dear Hookah Risks,

A water pipe, more commonly known as a hookah, is an instrument used to smoke flavored tobacco. Originating in the Middle East, it has gained popularity in this country, particular among young adults and college students. 

Although the smoke is passed through water in a glass basin before being inhaled, water pipe smoking is not safer than other forms of tobacco smoking.  Smoking hookah exposes you to more carbon monoxide and nicotine compared to cigarettes. Since the smoke is cooled the user is able to absorb a larger amount of smoke directly into his/her lungs. 

Hookah smoke also contains the same cancer-causing chemicals as cigarette smoke. In addition, irritants in the smoke cause inflammation in the lungs that can lead to emphysema, just like cigarette smoke. Similar to cigarette smokers, hookah smokers are at a higher risk of developing mouth and throat cancers and cardiovascular disease compared to non-smokers. 

There is concern about the duration of exposure, as well. When compared to cigarette smoking, hookah sessions last significantly longer, which increases the likelihood of becoming addicted.

This is all in addition to non-medical side effects such as yellow teeth, wrinkling of skin, and clothes that smell like smoke.  

In conclusion, there is no safe way to smoke tobacco as even secondhand smoke has been shown to increase health risks. For more information on smoking, please check out our section Smoking & Nicotine to see how we really feel about cigarettes.


Signed: TeenHealthFX