Hookahs Aren’t Safer Than Cigarettes

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Hookahs are growing in popularity, but if you’re interested because you’ve heard that they’re “safer” than other ways of smoking, we have bad news for you: They’re probably not.

The water in a hookah doesn’t do much to filter out toxins in the smoke, it turns out. A recent chemical analysis of hookah smoke found that the smoke contains plenty of nicotine and carcinogens, and that a typical hookah session is likely to expose you to more of the bad stuff than you’d get from smoking a cigarette. This was true even when the researchers studied an herbal mixture that is marketed as an alternative to tobacco.

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The CDC has long warned that hookah smoke is “at least as toxic as cigarette smoke,” with documented health effects including cancer risks and risks to babies born to parents who smoked hookah while pregnant. If you choose to use a hookah, that’s up to you—but don’t think it’s a safer option.