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Side Effects of Shisha

author image Noreen Kassem
Noreen Kassem is a hospital doctor and a medical writer. Her articles have been featured in "Women's Health," "Nutrition News," "Check Up" and "Alive Magazine." Kassem also covers travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.
Side Effects of Shisha
Hookah pipes are used when smoking shisha. Photo Credit hookah image by zusyl from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Shisha or hookah smoking involves a water pipe that has a bowl, smoke chamber and hose. A special type of tobacco is burned inside the chamber, and smoke rises through water in the bowl before it is inhaled through the pipe. MayoClinic.com warns that the tobacco used in shisha smoking is toxic. Shisha smokers may inhale more tobacco smoke than from a cigarette because of the larger pipes used. Shisha smoking brings on several side effects.


As with cigarette smoking, shisha smoking carries the risk of addiction, leading to daily use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underlines that shisha contains tobacco, nicotine and other chemicals that make it addictive. Nicotine reaches the brain in only about 10 seconds after inhalation. For this reason, addiction can occur after even a few sessions of smoking shisha. Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from stopping shisha smoking include irritation, fatigue, headaches, tingling and depression.


A misconception about shisha smoking is that it is less damaging to the body than cigarettes, because the tobacco is inhaled through water. However, MayoClinic.com explains that shisha smoke also contains tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in the body. Shisha smoking may increase the risk of cancers, particularly of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat and lungs.

Asthma and Illness

The heavy volume of smoke from shisha may also cause chemical irritation of the lungs, leading to or worsening allergy-induced asthma. Even in individuals who are not prone to asthma, the toxic chemicals in the smoke can irritate and inflame the lining of the nasal passages, mouth and throat and trigger allergic reactions by the immune system. The Singapore Health Promotion Board notes that, as with cigarette smoke, even secondhand shisha smoke can cause damaging effects in the body that may lead to disease.

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