How unhealthy is Shisha smoke?

Anyone who wants to know how harmful Shisha actually is will not be much wiser from Google. Sometimes the smoke consists of 95% water vapor, other times it contains as much poison as a cigarette. A number of chemistry students at the University of Darmstadt, users themselves, conducted their own research using the most advanced analysis equipment. Here are their findings.

The harmful effects of the hookah

Good studies into the harmful effects of the hookah are scarce and the measuring methods are not standardized:

  • During the tests, the researchers in Darmstadt used the water pipe of one of the students and tar and nicotine filters for the two most harmful substances;
  • Different spectrograms and chromatograms were used for the rest of the “smoke” contained in smoke;
  • The “pulling device” was adjusted by means of an attachment to the same underpressure as that which the users generated when smoking, measured at the hose end, approximately 80 mbar;
  • A total of 12 tests were conducted with 6 people. Each time the subject had access to a hose in a “shisha-like environment”: easy chair, relaxed music, subdued light and a small something to drink;
  • The other hose was attached to the pulling device, which could be started and turned off simply by pressing a button;
  • The study also analyzed the smoke that was exhaled by the test subjects! In similar studies elsewhere, such a measurement was omitted.


How much tar does shisha smoke contain?

Shisha smoke contains 0.5 to 5% of the tar content of a cigarette per absolute puff (one full puff of Shisha compared to one full puff of a cigarette). It was not immediately obvious where the tar should come from. Tar is created when organic material burns! A cigarette reaches a maximum temperature of 800 degrees at the glowing point. Shisha tobacco reaches a maximum temperature of 120 degrees.

The amount of nicotine in Shisha smoke

The inhaled smoke contained approximately (depending on the brand) 3 to 5 times the amount of nicotine per puff compared to a puff on a cigarette.
This initially surprised the researchers because nicotine is a very strong poison and is one of the most addictive substances in existence. And yet none of the Shisha users ever felt the “urgent need” to smoke Shisha. Until they came up with the idea of also analyzing the smoke that is exhaled again. And lo and behold, 78% of the inhaled nicotine is still part of the exhaled smoke.

How is the smoke from Shisha filtered?

  • Strangely enough, the strongest filtering effect on tar and other derivatives was the smoke column and not the water, namely 95% of all carcinogenic substances;
  • Immediately afterwards follows the filtering capacity of the hose. Tar and carcinogens are least filtered out by the water;
  • Water does have the strongest filtering effect for all toxic substances together (including nicotine, acrolein, etc.). Nicotine in particular was filtered out very strongly, as expected;
  • Acrolein is one of the main causes of the scratching sensation that many smokers experience. It is caused by the breakdown of glycerol and is a very strong poison. Glycerol breaks down at about 290 degrees Celsius, which is too hot for Shisha tobacco. As long as Shisha does not “scour”, so little acrolein is produced that, if present, it is completely filtered out.


About smoker’s lungs

We are all aware of the fact that smoking is not healthy, or at least everyone should be aware of it:

  • where there is tobacco involved, there is also nicotine;
  • and like smoke in the game there is always tar there;
  • and we’re not even talking about the rest of all the harmful substances.

But an interesting detail regarding smoker’s lungs is that passengers in a normal metro (one with brakes that do not whine or hum when accelerating and decelerating) with an open window, during a ride of more than 2 km, experience 5 times the amount of particulate matter and ingest carcinogens than from the smoke of one cigarette. The brake dust is to blame for this.

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