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.
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?