Shisha smoking – also called hookah, narghile,
waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking
tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses
sugar,through a bowl
and hose or tube.
The tube ends in a mouthpiece from which
the smoker inhales the smoke from the substances being burnt into
Shisha smoking is traditionally used by people
from Middle Eastern or Asian community groups but is becoming
increasingly popular among all groups in cities around the
What is in a shisha pipe?
Shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit
or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than
cigarette smoke. Popular flavourings include apple, plum, coconut,
mango, mint, strawberry and cola. Wood, coal, or charcoal
is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create
the smoke because the fruit syrup or sugar makes the tobacco
When you smoke shisha, you and anyone sitting
near you are breathing in smoke which releases toxins
including carbon monoxide and heavy metals –reducing your body’s
ability to carry oxygen around in your blood. Visit our smoking page to find out more about the effect
that smoking has your body.
How harmful is shisha smoking?
Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it
contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as
arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the
same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease,
cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much smoke
or toxic substances you’re exposed to in a typical shisha
session.People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than
they smoke a cigarette, and in one puff of shisha
you inhale the same amount of smoke as you’d get
from a smoking a whole cigarette.
The average shisha-smoking session lasts an
hour and research has shown that in this time you can inhale the
same amount of smoke as from more than 100
Some people mistakenly think that
shisha smoking is not addictive because the water
used in the pipe can absorb nicotine. In
reality, because only some of the nicotine is absorbed by the
water, shisha smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause
Is herbal shisha safer?
No it isn’t. Shisha, herbal or otherwise,
usually contains tobacco. Fruit or herbal flavours do not mean the
product is healthy. Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re
still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal
or charcoal used to burn the shisha.
Second hand smoke is also a worry. If you’re smoking with other
people or in a public place and the shisha includes cigarette
tobacco, it’s likely you’ll breathe in their second hand smoke
Who uses shisha?
Shisha smoking is traditionally used by
people from Middle Eastern or Asian community groups but is
becoming increasingly popular in cities around the UK.
Recent data on shisha shows it’s getting used
more widely. Two in five local authorities we
surveyed said they’d seen an increase in the number of
shisha bars since 2007, with research showing that one in 10
Caucasian people have now tried it.
Where can I get help quitting?
Whether it's cigarettes or shisha, smoking still remains the number one
cause of preventable death in the UK.
If you use shisha and want to quit:
- take a look at the WeQuit website,
- order or download our
Stop Smoking booklet
- or ring Quitline on 0800 434
6677 for more advice.