Smoke from one hour of hookah equal to 150 cigarettes

New research shows that in a one-hour hookah smoking session users inhale as much smoke as someone puffing on 150 cigarettes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the prevalence of hookah smoking among college students and their misconceptions about the smoking method.

Among the study population, 54 percent of students said they had used hookah sometime during their lifetime. About 16 percent of students said they had used hookah in the past 30 days, according to the study.

Study findings suggest hookah is perceived as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking – nearly 30 percent of those who never smoked hookah said they would consider smoking it in the future.

Hookah smoking, however, can be more harmful that cigarette smoking.

Hookah is a device used for smoking tobacco and involves passing tobacco smoke through water before inhalation.

In a typical one-hour hookah smoking session, users inhale about 90,000 milliliters of smoke – that’s significantly more than the smoke from one cigarette, which has 500 to 600 milliliters, according to the CDC.

The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can even increase health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals, according to the CDC.

One session of hooking use contains about 200 puffs of smoke, which exposes users to three- to six-fold higher levels of carbon monoxide and 46-fold higher levels of tar than from one cigarette, according to the CDC.

“In our study, more than half of the sample perceived cigarette smoking as more dangerous than hookah smoking,” the researchers said. “Yet data suggest that hookah smoking, because of higher levels of carbon monoxide and tar, poses a considerably greater health hazard than cigarette smoking.”

“Because of the filtration mechanism, smoke that emits from a hookah is softer and lighter and has a more pleasant smell than smoke emitted from a cigarette,” they said. “This may lead smokers to a false belief that hookah smoking is safe or harmless.”

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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