Hookah, a Deceptive Alteration of Cigarettes

by Joseph Cho on March 9, 2014

Tobacco can be consumed in various ways such as cigars, cigarettes, snuff, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and flavored shisha tobacco. While public health organizations and governments have been successful in curbing cigarette consumption via advertisement bans, taxes, and non-smoking areas, tobacco continues to branch and affect more than 16 million Americans today. Worldwide, it is the leading preventable cause of death with more than 5 million deaths per year. By 2030 it is estimated tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths. Because the health factors related to tobacco have become widely known, tobacco companies reach consumers by producing healthier alternatives. One such example is the creation of e-cigarettes or “mild” cigarettes. Of particular interest is hookah, a middle-eastern tradition that is sweeping campuses in America.


Hookah, also known as narghile, shisha, and goza, consists of a water pipe with a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe, and a hose. Tobacco is packed into the bowl and lit coals are placed over it to heat the tobacco. As smoke is produced it filters through the water pipe and builds up in a smoke chamber. Due to the cooling from the water and smoke chamber, one is able to inhale quantities of smoke far greater than a typical cigarette user. One smoking session can last as long as 60 minutes, and delivers approximately 100 times the smoke as a single cigarette, with 40 times the tar and 10 times the carbon monoxide.

Statistics show 1 in 3 college students has smoked hookah. Primack’s study in the journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research also found that more than 50% of these students were not cigarette smokers. They reasoned hookah is was more appealing than cigarettes for various reasons, mainly its creation of a social experience. Hookah is not consumed alone but rather with a group of friends due to the size of a bowl. Additionally, unlike cigarettes it produces an attractive aroma, lacks harshness on the throat, and has a variety of tastes.

There are five myths that surround hookah:

1. The first myth is that because smoke is filtered through water, it eliminates harmful ingredients. The reality is the opposite hookah smokers intake even more carcinogens and tar than typical cigarette smokers.

2. The second myth reasons that hookah smoke is healthier than cigarette smoking because the tobacco is heated as opposed to burnt. Regardless of smoke production methods, the end product is the same – smoke containing carcinogens.

3. A third myth reasons that inhaling hookah smoke does not burn the lungs due to a cooling smoke chamber. While it is true the lungs are saved from heat damage from cigarettes, the main cause of lung cancer remains the same. Carcinogens, tar, carbon monoxide, and particulate particles still enter the respiratory system to cause damage to the lungs.

4. The fourth myth is that smoking hookah is not as addictive because there is no nicotine. Shisha still contains nicotine just like cigarettes. Regardless of the form it takes, both products are tobacco altered in one way or another.

5. The fifth and final myth is that shisha tobacco is flavored with fruits, so it is healthier than regular tobacco. Just how strawberry milk does not contain real strawberries, artificially flavored tobacco does not contain real fruits. The nutritious value of fruits is not transferred into the tobacco through flavor. Thus when it is burnt it still produces the same cancer-causing chemicals.

Cigarettes are products that are being consumed less and less. Unfortunately tobacco companies have adapted by producing alternatives to smoking. Because the public has become more aware of the adverse effects of cigarettes, tobacco companies capitalize on the knowledge by creating “healthier” alternatives in which consumers can still smoke tobacco. It is important to educate the public for their health and environmental safety to cut back on smoking, regardless of the method.









{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

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Brittany Mortera March 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Your post is not only informative, but truthfully scary. I personally do hookah every so often as a social experience and do it without a real worry. The appeal of hookah and its reputation as the “safer” alternative to cigarettes drastically plays down the dangers of the long-term side effects which could be lung cancer. I didn’t know what exactly was involved with the shisha I was smoking and figured, since I don’t do it often, it won’t have that much of an effect on me. Now I know better and take more caution when it comes to hookah.


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I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.


Joseph Cho April 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Thanks a lot for the comment! I appreciate it :)


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