As a water pipe, the hookah pipe is made up of separate chambers for the tobacco and water, also using one or more flexible tubing stems through which smokers inhale the tobacco smoke. What differentiates the tobacco used in a hookah, making it more pleasant and appealing, especially to younger people, is the fact that it is usually flavored with molasses, fruit pulp or honey and also has an enriched taste and smell through the addition of other flavorings such as coconut, apple, strawberry and other fruit flavors, mint or even coffee. Hookah tobacco is thus made more sweet and its taste and aroma becomes mellower and more attractive to smokers, especially those who view smoking as a social activity or pastime.
In a typical hookah, one can find the separate tobacco chamber consisting of a bowl that contains burning charcoal on top of the flavored tobacco, the two being separated by heat resistant, perforated aluminum foil. The smoke is created when the tobacco is heated by the charcoal above it. When a hookah user draws on the stem of the flexible tube stem, this smoke passes through the hookah’s other chamber, which contains water, where it is cooled down before its inhalation.
Unlike other alternatives to traditional cigarettes, such as e-cigarettes and vaporizers, the Hookah pipe is not a new product, since in some civilizations, such as in India and Asia, this water pipes have been in use for more than 400 years. In fact the hookah is believed to have been first invented as far back as the early 1600s by Indian physician Hakim Abdul Fath, who thought that passing tobacco smoke through water before inhaling it would minimize the potential health hazards of tobacco.
The current popularity of hookah smoking has begun when, in the 1990s, flavored tobacco started becoming hugely popular in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, giving a new impetus to hookah use across the Middle East, which gradually became a global trend. The craze also reached the US, especially through the opening of dedicated hookah lounges opening up in big cities and university campuses, and aiming at attracting younger smokers to hookah use. This was proved successful and even more people are nowadays enjoying the various hookah flavors during outings with friends.
Because the smoke passes through water some people erroneously believe that this makes the smoking of hookah less dangerous than cigarettes, because they think that nicotine and toxins are somehow removed. This is totally wrong and those wishing to smoke hookah, either as a pastime or as an alternative to smoking regular cigarettes should always bear in mind that the tobacco used in a hookah does contain nicotine, like in regular cigarettes, which is equally addictive and that this tobacco also contains other toxins and chemicals that might harm one’s health. In fact hookah smokers should be aware that a one-hour session of hookah smoking exposes them to as much nicotine and toxins as they would get from a day or more of cigarette smoking.
In a nutshell, hookah smoking might have a more pleasant taste and be more appealing than cigarette smoking but people making this choice should know that it is every bit as dangerous.