A hookah is a smoking device also referred to as a water pipe, because of the contraption’s use of water as a component to smoking. The hookah originated in the northern parts of India near the Pakistani border, and eventually spread to the Middle East. Today, hookah can also be found in large quantities in some parts of Europe, North America and Africa. Hookah is a popular social tool for the cultures that smoke it.
The hookah is usually made of a glass body with metal trimmings and a hose attached to it. The tobacco used in hookah is called shisha or mu’assel, which isn’t pure tobacco, but has a sweetener added to it such as honey or molasses. Shisha comes in a charcoal form, which is placed in a heating chamber. The smoke that comes from it passes through the water for cooling and filtering, then up to the hose on to the smoker.
There have been claims that smoking using a hookah pipe is safer than smoking cigarettes, but medical studies refute this. The water does not actually filter out toxic chemicals in the smoke and compared to cigarettes, the smoker inhales much more tobacco-laden smoke in one puff. Hookah pipes also pose hygiene questions, since it is not clear how thorough a cleaning it undergoes between users.