Cite this article

NIDA. (2014, March 19). High School Seniors Are Taking Up the Hookah. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
March 19 2014
Photo of a hookah

NIDA’s 2013 Monitoring the Future study reported that more than 20%—that’s 1 in 5—high school seniors have used a hookah to smoke tobacco. A hookah is a pipe that burns flavored tobacco and passes the smoke through water before it is inhaled. It can have one stem to smoke from, or several stems so multiple people can smoke from the same pipe.

Hookah bars, frequently found near college campuses, are gaining popularity with young adults. The exotic flavors of “shisha” (a mixture of tobacco, molasses, and fruit used in hookahs) appeal to teens. There are dozens of flavors, including strawberry, lime, and chocolate. The social aspect of hookahs is another attraction, with groups of young people gathering for smoking sessions that can last for hours.

Tobacco Is Just as Harmful in a Hookah!

Many think that smoking tobacco through a water pipe is safer than smoking a cigarette, believing that the water filters out the harmful chemicals.

That’s a myth!

Hookah smoke contains the same harmful tar and other toxic chemicals that cigarette smoke has. Hookah smoking is linked to many of the same health problems as cigarette smoking—like heart disease and lung cancer. In addition, a typical hour-long hookah session, in which a person inhales several long, deep breaths of smoke, can equal as many as 100 cigarettes or more!

It gets worse. The tobacco in hookahs is heated with charcoal, which exposes you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Also, since hookahs are meant to be shared, you get exposed to germs, putting you at risk for all sorts of other nasty illnesses.

What’s the upside? We’re not sure there is one. Smoking a hookah might look cool, but it’s not much different than smoking a cigarette.

Tell us in comments, what would you say if your friends wanted to try out the local hookah bar?

For an update on hookahs, see the blog post, “Hookah Isn’t Harmless.”