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Hookah smoking: Is it really safe?

Medically reviewed by

Written by Aditi Sahu

There can be two reasons why you landed here in this article- you are either a smoker or you wish to win an argument with someone on hookah smoking/hubbly smoking v/s cigarettes. In either case, your questions will be answered. And to cut the chase we are here to tell you that smoking of any sort is harmful regardless of what you are smoking- weed, cigarettes, sheesha, vape. Most people choose cigarettes over hookah thinking it’s safer.

But as a matter of fact, it is equally harmful and dangerous. Because anything you inhale that has smoke will deposit tar in your lungs- in turn reducing your lung capacity. A lot of youngsters smoke hookah with the misconception that its water vapor while in reality, it's just smoke filtered through water. By the end of this article, you will be clear with the hows and why’s of smoking while we bust the myths around Hookah and the dangers of smoking it. 

What’s in a Hookah?

We’re sure you know what a hookah is or how it works. But did you ever investigate what’s in that refreshing flavor? The hookah flavors contain sweetened and flavored tobacco that ultimately burns under the hot coal and produces smoke. The presence of tobacco in anything, be it cigarettes, pan masala, or hookah poses the same health risks and the tobacco effects associated with it are equally addictive. The amount of smoke consumed during 1 hour of a hookah session is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes. For several years, hookah has been debated as being better than smoking cigarettes. But recent studies have proven that nicotine intake from any source is equally bad for your lungs and oral health. 

Common misbeliefs about smoking Hookah 

The smoke from a hookah pipe gets filtered through water

But so does a cigarette! The cigarette butt is a filter through which the smoke gets sucked up and filtered. Likewise, the water in a hookah pot filters the smoke but does not retain the nicotine and other chemicals present in the smoke. The water at the base cools and diffuses the smoke for a soothing smoking experience, but does not filter out all the contents of the burnt tobacco smoke. The smoking health risks associated with other forms of smoking are applicable here as well. 

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Hookah is only recreational and non-addictive: It’s akin to healthy smoking

The flavor used in the hookah contains nicotine- the same as in a cigarette. Most people who get addicted to smoking start with hookah smoking and then begin smoking cigarettes as it is readily accessible and does not need to be prepared like a hookah. 

The hookah smoke is cool in temperature and does not burn the lungs. 

Yes, the smoke of a hookah has a relatively soothing feel as compared to cigarettes. But that doesn’t make it less dangerous. The hookah flavors are sweetened and the water base cools the smoke down- but that does not change the contents of the smoke. The condensed hookah smoke still has nicotine and is associated with the same risk factors as smoking.  

It’s better than smoking cigarettes 

As we mentioned previously, smoking anything is injurious to your lungs. The amount of smoke generated in a hookah is much more than that of a cigarette. 

Electronic vapes or electronic hookahs are safe to smoke 

Inhaling the smoke by burning anything (not just tobacco) is damaging to your lungs. In the case of vaping, nothing is being burnt, but the liquid inside the vaping device contains nicotine- which again has prolonged ill effects on health (especially in case of youngsters)

The smokers debate: Hookah v/s cigarettes

Based on the reports published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Hookah and cigarettes pose the same health risks. While cigarettes are a direct source of nicotine, hookah is a mix of the smoke created by coal and tobacco combined. The smoke or the fumes generated by burning is harmful to the lungs and becomes addictive at the same time due to the presence of nicotine- a highly addictive chemical. The difference only lies in the way these two are smoked. While Hookah is more of recreational activity, cigarettes become a readily available escape. Hookah sessions are relatively longer, and the amount of smoke inhaled is also fairly larger than cigarettes. But an average smoker can go up to a pack or more in a day- causing severe damage to the lungs, and generating a potential risk of developing cancer. 

Is hookah smoking better than smoking cigarettes?

This is one of the major misconceptions which draws a lot of teenagers into smoking hookah in the pursuit of looking cool and being accepted. But the answer is NO. Hookah smoking, vaping or ‘smoking’ of any sort is toxic for the overall functioning of the body. Hookah smokers are rather consuming more carbon monoxide as a by-product of burning coal. A common misconception among people is that they don’t smoke cigarettes and only smoke hookah thinking it's safe. Most hookah flavors contain the same (or more) amount of tobacco as in a box full of 20 cigarettes. Many debates that as well claiming that the flavors they use are tobacco-free. Yes, it makes you less prone to nicotine addiction- but you are still consuming the other chemicals and particulate matter that the fumes contain. 

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Take the first step

There is a plethora of books, podcasts, apps, and coaches that work with smoke addicts trying to quit smoking. This only means that it is a highly addictive habit and the debate between hookah v/s cigarettes is only happening among people who smoke one or both. At the end of the day you are consuming smoke and it’ll always have repercussions on your health. 


  1. What is hubble bubble smoking or hubbly bubbly smoking?
    These are different names for hookah smoking. A hookah is a water pipe containing a smoking chamber, a bowl, a pipe, and a hose, also known as a narghile, shisha, or goza. The smoke is sucked through a rubber hose to a mouthpiece after special tobacco is cooked and passed through water.

  2. What are the dangers of smoking hubbly?
    Tobacco in a hookah pipe is no less harmful than tobacco in a cigarette, and the water in a hookah does not filter out the poisonous chemicals in the tobacco smoke. Because of the high volume of smoke inhaled in one smoking session, which may last up to 60 minutes, hookah smokers may inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers. 

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