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A couple of years ago, at a party, I was invited to partake in some hookah smoking by some friends. Going by memory, I remember the hookah being a ornate metal contraption that somehow "filtered" the smoke produced by burning the product. Hookah at that time was pretty active at my college, to the point IIRC people would openly smoke it in the inner quad.

hookah
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, to convince me to try it, which I did, someone told me that smoking hookah was much safer than smoking cigarettes; they said there were no carcinogens, and implored me try the "pure", "fruity" flavor of the smoke. I've heard similar arguments about hashish from those in the Middle East.

My questions are: Are these claims true? Is smoking hookah safer than smoking cigarettes? Is it safe at all? Does hookah contain nicotine/carcinogens? What about smoking hashish, which I'm not sure is the same thing as smoking hookah?

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FYI, hashish is a concentrated form of cannabis. I think most the time people smoke sheesha in hookahs. Sheesha is tobacco typically prepared with molasses and fruit flavoring. –  Jason Plank May 7 '11 at 10:11
    
I've heard that a lot. Smoking hookah or hashish is LESS dangerous. The important part to extract from this statement, even if it was true is: less dangerous or more safe, is not equal to completely safe. It's still dangerous even if less. –  ndefontenay May 11 '11 at 10:24
    
A hookah is a device for smoking which you can put tobacco or cannabis or anything in, really. Hashish is a concentrated form of cannabis. So you are comparing apples to forks, sort of. Some of your story suggests you are confusing marijuana, the herbal form of cannabis, with hookah smoking.when you say they smoked in the quad at school do you mean that they used a water pipe with tobacco in public or smoked marijuana cigarettes? You can see that your confusion about the lingo is making it hard to address your question. Perhaps you would like to ask clarifying questions about your experience. –  Tim Quinn Dec 30 '12 at 17:40
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1 Answer 1

I assume you mean a waterpipe a.k.a qalyan. It's an instrument for smoking, you don't necessarily put hashish in it. Tobacco (or flavored tobacco), marijuana, etc., can be (and are) used as well.

Now to the most important part of the question.

Hookah smoking is not safer than cigarette smoking.

(...)

The tobacco is no less toxic in a hookah pipe, and the water in the hookah does not filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke. Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session, which can last as long as 60 minutes.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hookah/AN01265

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As I understand it, inhaling smoke of any kind can cause lung cancer, as will breathing dirty dusty air. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 6 '11 at 20:55
    
What are the health implications compared to cigarettes if you put hashish in it? –  crazy2be May 7 '11 at 3:46
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The article fails to address several important facts. 1. While hookahs certainly cannot filter toxic chemicals like nicotine, it does filter out Ash and other particulates that heavily contribute to lung cancer. 2. Even casual cigarette smokers can smoke several times a day, hookah sessions - while they can be long - are much more far between. –  crasic May 8 '11 at 19:53
    
The CDC also states somthing similar: cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/… Plus other sites talk about the risks of sharing it with others, as it can spread tuberculosis, hepatitis... though I have no links for that –  Holger Apr 13 '12 at 15:48
    
And what about second-hand smoke in Hookah rooms? Is it the same as indoor cigarette smoke? –  n11 Feb 13 at 21:18
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