Smoking shisha has been a fantastic social past time for hundreds of years. In that time, we have seen countless evolutions in the culture surrounding shisha. This blog is just a short awareness post about the stereotypes surrounding hookah and shisha tobacco, and it addresses some of these social issues.

Firstly, there is the somewhat recent stereotype of drugs being paired with shisha. There are a select few cultures that still put hashish into their hookah pipes, but this is mostly unheard of these days. Shisha was made for smoking tobacco. It is a social tool and is supposed to be mild and enjoyable. In general, being intoxicated is not a common trend in most modern Middle Eastern shisha communities. A lot of authority figures in different countries use this stereotype to raid hookah bars, which often results in nothing but tobacco pipes being taken away from paying patrons.

hookah shisha

Another popular misconception is the idea that an hour long hookah session results in up to 100 cigarettes of smoking. There are multiple things to consider for this claim. Firstly, hookah tobacco by weight does not contain very much tobacco. Glycerin, honey, flavoring, and water are all parts of what gives shisha tobacco it’s fluffy characteristic. Because of all this liquid, tobacco increases its surface area a lot, similar to a sponge when wet. Another consideration is that most smoke density from hookah tobacco comes from glycerin. When combusted, glycerin produces a very thick vapor. This is the ingredient in “e-cigarettes” that gives them so much “smoke”. The tobacco in hookah contributes very little to this smoke density. A third consideration is that the amount of nicotine in hookah tobacco. One pack of cigarettes contains roughly 15-25 milligrams of nicotine, sometimes more and sometimes less. If you smoked 20 cigarettes in one hour, it would be enough nicotine to possibly have an overdose and be at medical risk or even risk of death. 100 cigarettes in an hour would certainly be enough nicotine to kill in this case.

One final consideration is that there is definitely less tar in a hookah session than in a cigarette. I am not arguing that there is none, but you are indirectly combusting the tobacco, which means you are producing less tar than direct combustion. Most tar comes from there not being enough oxygen in the air for combustion, which releases the nasty chemicals we call tar. If you think about the physical characteristic of a cigarette, it makes sense that there is not enough oxygen to efficiently burn such a compact roll of tobacco.

One other crucial stereotype is that hookah attracts crime. This results from many things, but mostly because hookah tobacco is an alternative to the bar and drinking scene. Most drinking establishments in the United States close at 2 am. To increase revenue and business from the dominant market of alcohol, a lot of hookah bars close at a later time. This means that patrons who are already drunk flock to hookah bars to stay out. This does not mean hookah attracts criminals, it means that people who want to stay out late have a place to go. Anytime you combine crowds and alcohol, you are going to have incidents, whether they be criminal or not. Clearly it would hurt business, but closing hookah bars at the same time bars close would decrease the incident frequency by a huge margin.

My point in this blog is to point out the flaws in all of these cultural issues surrounding hookah. Is smoking tobacco healthy? Of course not, but neither is drinking alcohol. Moderation and maturity go a long way to fixing this problem. People still drink because it is enjoyable, and this is the same case with tobacco. The freedom to smoke tobacco does not mean you are a bad person, it means you choose to smoke tobacco and are enjoying that right.