Health effects of Hookah


What is a Hookah?

A single or multi stemmed instrument to smoke flavored tobacco is called ‘Hookah‘ or ‘Shisha’. The smoke in the hookah passes through a glass based water basin before the person inhales the smoke. The word “Hookah” is derived from Arabic language.


What is a Hookah

What is a Hookah?

Though some historians predict, its origin to be in the north Indian province, it is accepted by most that a Persian physician, Abul Gilani, in the court of Emperor Akbar invented Hookah. In order to lessen the harmful effects of tobacco, he proposed an idea to make the smoke pass through water. This would lead to purification of smoke and will give the same feel as normal tobacco smoking does. Hookah slowly became popular outside India and spread to other countries like North America, South America, South Africa, Australia and Europe.


Hookah is known by different names in different countries. In Afghanistan, it is known as “Chillim”. “Gudugudaa” is the name given to hookah in Indonesia. In Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Iraq, Yemen, and Isreal, hookah is called by the name “Narghile”.


Structure and operation

There are several parts that form the hookah apparatus.

 Structure of Hookah


It is the head of the hookah. The bowl is a container made out of clay or marble. It is used to hold the coal and tobacco used for smoking. The bowl is filled with tobacco and a small piece of perforated aluminum foil or a metal screen is used to cover the tobacco. Coal is lit and placed on the top of the cover and the tobacco gets heated at a temperature.



Windscreen is a cover that is placed over the bowl area. It is perforated and prevents the wind to influence the temperature of the coal, prevents the ash from being blown into the surroundings.



A hose is that is a flexible tube is used to allow the smoke to the drawn from distance, so that it gets cooled before the smoke is inhaled. The end of the tube is a mouthpiece that is made up of metal, wood or plastic. It can be of various sizes and shapes. In earlier times, the bark of the white Himalayan Birch tree was used to make hookah tubes.


Purge valve

A purge valve is used to connect the airspace in the water to let out stale smoke that has been left unused for a long time.


Water jar

Base of the hookah is the water jar. Below the level of water, the down stem hangs so that smoke passes through the body and comes out bubbling through the water. It helps in cooling and humidifying the smoke. Other than water, fruit juice, fruit pieces, mint leaves and crushed ice are also used.



A plate is an ashtray that is kept below the bowl so that ashes from the coal fall into the plate.



Grommets are rings that used to keep between the bowl and the body. This will help to seal the joints between the parts.



To the bottom of the stem, a piece of plastic is attached in a grid pattern so that it giver smoother smoke and reduced noise while smoking.



Water is filled in the bottom of the hookah apparatus so that a part of the body tube is submerged in water. At the top of the hookah, tobacco is placed inside the bowl and is covered with a foil. Charcoal is lit and kept on the top. Hookah is inhaled through the hose. Because of the water at the bottom, the temperature of the smoke is reduced.


Harmful Health effects of Hookah

Though less harmful then cigarette smoking, continuous usage of hookah leads to several health problems. Pulmonary diseases and oral diseases are the common threats for smoking hookah. Though the chemical composition of the hookah smoke is different from a normal cigarette smoke it is still unhealthy for human consumption. There is always a threat of cancer in tobacco smokers whether it is in the form of hookah or cigarette. (check out bad effects of smoking)


In the current times, Hookah has been largely used by adolescents all over. This is putting a definite start to the respiratory diseases at an early stage. Often masked with being “tobacco free”, hookah does harm through the smoke generated by coal and cause irritation to the lungs as well as throat resulting in ailments for lifetime.

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