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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Health Department
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Page updated Jul 22, 2013 10:54 AM
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The Dangers of Hookah Smoking  

Used for centuries, hookah originated in ancient Persia and India. It is typically practiced in groups, with a tube passed from person to person. It is known by many different names, including narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, and goza. But don’t be confused by the exotic names: hookah smoking is not safe. It carries many of the same health dangers as smoking cigarettes.  

  

Hookah Use in the U.S. 

  • Hookah smoking is most common among university students 
  • In 2010, nearly one in five 12th grade students had used a hookah in the past year 
  • Youth and the community should recognize hookah use as a dangerous practice and not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.    

Hookah is NOT a safe alternative to cigarettes 

  • Hookah smoke is as toxic as smoke from cigarettes and contains addictive nicotine 
  • Hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the same toxins found in cigarette smoke 
  • Using a hookah is equivalent to, and can be worse than, smoking cigarettes  
    • An hour-long hookah session includes 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs 
    • The volume of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is 150 times the smoke inhaled  by a person smoking a cigarette  
    • Even after passing through water, hookah smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer causing chemicals 

Health Effects of Hookah 

  • Hookah smoking has the same negative health effects as cigarette smoking, including:  
    • Cancer (oral, lung, stomach, and esophageal) 
    • Reduced lung function 
    • Decreased fertility 
    • Women giving birth to babies with low-birth weight 
    • Secondhand smoke is hazardous to non-smokers  

     Additionally, hookah smoking may transmit infectious diseases (such as herpes, tuberculosis, influenza and hepatitis) when sharing hookah mouthpieces  

Alexandria Public Health Experts Comment on Hookah Use 

“Smoking a hookah should be considered a ‘gateway drug’ – hookahs are a gateway to cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. There is NO safe level of hookah use.” 

-- Stephen A. Haering, MD, MPH, FACPM, Health Director 

“Selling sweet-flavored tobacco to naïve high school and college kids in a cool dispenser (a hookah) is really just selling kids candy-flavored poison in attractive packaging. I find those selling hookah products just as morally reprehensible as those selling hard drugs to our kids. Both are dealers in death and disease.” 

-- Bob Custard, REHS, Environmental Health Manager  

Additional Resources 

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Hookah website 
  • American Lung Association’s Hookah Smoking fact sheet.   

 

4480 King Street
Alexandria, VA, 22302
703.746.4996
Fax: 703.746.4938
E-mail 

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Thursday Mornings