Hookah Facts

Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke a special mix of tobacco, sugars and fruits. Smoking tobacco using hookahs began in the Middle East, and is becoming popular around the world and in the United States. Hookah tobacco, also called "shisha" comes in different fruit and candy flavors. Other names for hookah include: waterpipe, narghile, argile, shisha, hubble-bubble and huqqa.

Who can smoke hookah?

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In Colorado, you must be 18 years or older to purchase tobacco, including hookah products.

How and where is hookah smoked?

  • Hookah is typically smoked in groups, and the pipe is often passed from person to person.
  • There are public hookah bars where people gather and smoke hookah together.
  • Hookah use is gaining in popularity around the world, including Britain, France, Russia, the Middle East and the United States.
  • In the United States, hookah is especially popular among youth and college students.

How does hookah smoking compare to cigarette smoking?

Hookah tobacco has many of the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

  • Because of the way a hookah is used, with charcoal used to heat the tobacco, smokers may absorb more toxic substances, (nicotine and carbon monoxide, among others) than cigarette smokers do.
  • An hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs.
  • People smoking hookah can inhale 150 - 180 times more smoke than from a cigarette.

Is hookah smoking harmful?

  • Yes. Although many users think it is less harmful, hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
  • Hookah smokers may also be at risk for some of the same diseases as cigarette smokers including:
  • Oral cancer.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Stomach cancer.
  • Cancer of the esophagus.
  • Reduced lung function.
  • Decreased fertility.

What other health risks does hookah smoking cause?

  • Infections and contagious diseases, such as oral herpes, may be passed to other smokers by sharing a hookah mouthpiece.
  • No amount of secondhand smoke is safe. Because hookah contains smoke from the tobacco, as well as form the heat source, the secondhand smoke risks can be just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

Common hookah myths

  • MYTH: Hookah does not contain tobacco.
  • FACT: Most hookah is used to smoke shisha, a mixture of tobacco, molasses and pulverized fruit.
  • MYTH: Hookah is better for you because the smoke is filtered through water.
  • FACT: You can't wash smoke. Since hookah sessions can last longer than smoking a cigarette, you can be exposed to high levels of smoke and toxic chemicals.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Denver Public Health.