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Middle Eastern men have smoked hookah pipes for hundreds of years. Now, this form of smoking is becoming popular in the United States, especially among young people. A hookah is a water pipe that holds tobacco. The tobacco is often mixed with honey, molasses, or dried fruit to give flavoring to the smoke. When a person inhales through a hose attached to the hookah, the smoke is filtered through water in the base. Passing the smoke through the water partially filters tar and small particles from the smoke.
Because the pipe filters the tobacco smoke, hookahs are advertised as safer than cigarettes. In fact, hookah smoke contains levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar that are as high or higher than those found in the smoke from many filtered cigarettes. Several types of cancer, as well as gum disease, have been linked to hookah smoking.
Content last updated: May 19, 2010.