Whether you call it Hookah, Shisha, waterpipe, or whatever it’s a trend that has taken over the country. I remember how a friend once told me how years ago he almost got arrested for having one because his roommate thought he was doing drugs. He had to show his roommate and the cops online documentation to prove it was a tobacco smoking device. This was hilarious because he is the last person on this earth who would ever touch illegal drugs. The Habesh community has been familiar with this device for many years, though. As ingrained as it is in parts of our culture – you can imagine it is not the healthiest activity. Here is a piece written by my friend Lewholum Apothecarian, a person in advanced studies to enter the health care field, on the effects of Shisha smoking:
Well I go by many names: shisha, hookah, nargile, narguileh or ghalyun but just refer to me as a tobacco waterpiping system that is the most efficient – cost effect, time effect, and potent- way to obtain nicotine in the world! It is human nature to look for the biggest bang for a buck, so for all you tobacco smokers -think about your friendly waterpipe! Well, why am I so good? I am able to us my amazing waterpiping technology to provide you with about 100 to 200 times of inhalable smoke than any cigarette may provide (1). So what does that really mean? Well I can assure to give you about 2.96 mg of nicotine (only 1.74 mg in a cigarette), 145 mg carbon monoxide (only 17.3 mg in a cigarette), and 802 mg of “tar” (only 22.3 mg in cigarette) as research at Virginia Commonwealth University have conducted (2). No wonder I am referred to as a “social activity,” I provide you so much you might as well share (3).
So how do I work? You put the tobacco product on my head (Figure 1) then cover with aluminum, than add ignited charcoal onto of the aluminum. (You might find that there are “herbal shisha” with no tobacco nor nicotine but it is highly unlikely you will encounter these products in your local stores). With your inhalation, the pressure depletion will lead to the triple layer interaction of the charcoal, aluminum, and tobacco; which will lead in the metallic tasting product of carbon monoxide and other cancer causing chemicals to be drawn towards you. But no worries, as this metallic taste can be masked with a wide variety of flavorings (2). I have found the mint flavor goes well with the carbon monoxide and recommend the apple flavor to take care of the metallic taste.
See, the key to my proficiency is the natural water at the bottom of the waterpipe. It has been set forth that our bodies can only handle a certain amount of nicotine before we feel nauseated thus restricting the amount of cigarettes that we inhale. See my magnificent set up reduces the concentration of nicotine in the inhaled smoke thus enabling us to inhale so much more of the “triple layer (2).”
I just want to leave you with the thought that research has not linked any respiratory or cardiovascular problems with me compared to the many other alternative tobacco products. Although little research has been conducted on me, I assure you that with my providing 36 times the tar and 8.4 times the carbon monoxide at one sitting, you will not be on the good side of the data curve in future scientific case studies. I cannot let you light me up, if I do not recommend the use of an individual mouthpiece to reduce sexually transmitted disease. Then again, it is worth noting that no proof has directly shown me as a cooperate in any sexually transmitted disease circulating in society.
In conclusion, please review all the links I have provided to you and make your own decision if I am the best way to consume tobacco products for you.
1 World Health Organization Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation, “Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators”, World Health Organization, 2005,
2 Shihadeh & Saleh (2005) Food & Chemical Toxicology Vol. 43(5).
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