[Hookah en español]

A hookah, or water pipe, uses burning charcoal to heat an herbal substance: shisha. Shisha is typically molasses-based and comes in fruit flavors. There are two types: tobacco and non-tobacco shisha.

Hookah Smoke is Harmful

Hookah smoking is dangerous whether or not the shisha contains tobacco. Hookah smokers, and those around them, inhale toxic chemicals, as well as burned charcoal. There is no healthy way to smoke hookah.

Toxic gases from hookah smoking come from two separate sources: the charcoal that is burned to heat the shisha and the shisha itself. These gases are similar to firsthand and secondhand cigarette smoke. There is no type of shisha that is a healthy alternative to cigarettes. Water does not filter out unhealthy chemicals and tobacco-containing shisha, like cigarettes, is addictive.

Risks of Hookah Use

ChemicalCharcoalNon-Tobacco ShishaTobacco Shisha
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Carbon monoxide
Fine particulate matter
Volatile aldehydes  
NNAL (a tobacco-specific nitrosamine)    
Health Risks
  • Premature death in those with heart and lung disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Decreased lung function
  • Increased respiratory symptoms
  • Cancer

Hookah Use in NYC

In NYC, hookah smoking is three times more likely among young people ages 18 to 20 than among adults 21 and older. Youth in NYC, and elsewhere, commonly underestimate the health risks of smoking hookah — that may contain tobacco — and are often unaware that they are inhaling harmful smoke when they visit hookah bars. The increase in younger New Yorkers that smoke hookah is particularly troubling because some studies suggest youth who smoke hookah may be more likely to try cigarettes.

More Hookah Resources