Following is a list of frequently asked hookah questions. Make sure to also read our Hookah Tips page.

Hookah Buying Questions

What are key features to look for in a quality hookah?

If you are looking to buy a hookah keep the following tips in mind:

  • Single hose hookahs smoke, arguably, better than a multiple hose hookahs
  • Medium size hookahs often smoke much better than very small or very large hookahs
  • A washable hose is easier to maintain than a traditional hookah
  • Thick glass and a sturdy shape are very important for the vase
  • Look for clean welds and avoid screw together parts
  • Avoid any hookah that uses plastic

Related articles:

Hookah Smoking Questions

I’m not getting enough smoke, what am I doing wrong?

Hookah Smoking Tips

This can have many reasons. The most common problem is not packing the tobacco right, or not making the holes (in the aluminum foil) the right way. Make sure that the hookah is completely sealed. Poor seals are the death of a good session because they let air into the system from points other than the bowl. Here are three related article:

The smoke is harsh, what am I doing wrong?

This means that the tobacco is burning. You may need less heat. Either remove some coal or remove the wind cover. The bowl may also be over packed and the tobacco could be touching the foil and burning. Read about harsh hookah smoke and how to prevent it in more detail.

Is smoking hookah safer than smoking cigarette?

There are many papers on this subject that you can find with a simple Google search. You get much more smoke from a hookah than a cigarette, however the smoke is not nearly as harmful (less nicotine) as the cigarette smoke. Smoking hookah is obviously not good for your health. Make sure you talk to a doctor for correct advice on this topic though. Related articles:

Hookah Maintenance Questions

Hookah Maintenance TipsHow should I clean my hookah?

Take every part of the hookah apart. Traditional hoses should be cleared of all smoke and hung out to dry. Rinse washable hoses and blow out as much water as you can. Hang it over a closet pole so that it can dry properly. Use a hookah brush and hot water for a thorough cleaning on the stem. Same thing for the vase.

How often should I clean my hookah?

You should clean your hookah quite often. It is important that you clean it right after smoking and not before your next smoke. Otherwise, the smell and remainder of the previous smoke stays inside the hookah and makes it much harder to remove. If you smoke only similar flavors from this one hookah you can wait longer before the flavors will conflict. Related articles:

Hookah Tobacco Questions

Top Shisha Tobacco BrandsWhat tobacco should I buy?

There are many different Hookah Tobacco Brands. If you like modern style tobaccos (light buzz, high smoke volume, sweet flavors) then brands like Fumari and Social Smoke are good choices. Nakhla is considered the best brand by many and is the most smoked brand on the market. It has very natural flavors and wonderful smoke. Tangiers is known for having high volume smoke, unique flavors and a strong buzz. It really depends on what you want from your session.

Hookah Hose Questions

How many hoses?

I’m a big fan of one hose hookahs. Multiple hose hookahs should only be used when smoking with lots of people but you have to plug the hoses that are not being smoked from so air doesn’t get pulled back into the hookah. Passing the hose and sharing the smoking time is part of the smoking ritual. Related articles:

Hookah Coals Questions

Hookah CoalsWhat coal should I buy?

Generally speaking, there are two types of coals: Quick light and Natural. As the name indicates, quick light coals are made to start up fast (usually 20 seconds of flaming them with lighter sets them on). However, QL coals often add unwanted flavors to the tobacco and cost more but they are used for convenience. Natural coals take longer to light up but they are much better than QL coals. They should not add flavor or smell and last longer than QL coals. Natural coals are the better option for someone smoking at home or in a place where they have access to a fire or stove. Related articles:

Hookah Bowl Questions

What size bowl should I buy?

Size of the hookah bowl depends mostly on the length of time you want to smoke. The Tangiers large funnel bowl can, reportedly, smoke for 12 hours. The Crown Hookah mini classic bowl lasts for about an hour but takes a minuscule amount of tobacco and only one piece of charcoal. There are countless size variations between these two and there are even some freaky bowls that can handle 250 grams of tobacco. It really depends on the kind of session you want. Related articles:

Traveling with and Shipping Hookahs

What is Hookah in different languages?

  • English: Hookah or Shisha
  • Spanish: narguile or pipe turca
  • French: Narguilé
  • Farsi: Ghelyoon (Ghelyaan)
  • Arabic: Shisha or Argile
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11 years ago

Your info is WRONG.

You falsely claim that smoke from hookah is not as dangerous as cigarette smoke? Both Mayo Clinic AND WebMD cite hookah dangerous WORSE. For “health” advice regarding hookah, I trust them over a site called

Directly from Mayo Clinic:

“Hookah smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than are cigarette smokers.

“Hookah pipes used in hookah bars and cafes may not be cleaned properly, risking the spread of infectious diseases.”

“The tobacco is no less toxic in a hookah pipe, and the water in the hookah does not filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke. Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session, which can last as long as 60 minutes. “

Reply to  Ben
11 years ago


What many of the studies fail to point out is that hookah smokers generally smoke once a week while cigarette smokers smoke multiple times a day. Also, hookah smokers don’t inhale the smoke, its much like smoking a cigar. Hookah smokers know hookah is not good for them and that at the end of the day it is tobacco.

Tobacco analyst
Tobacco analyst
11 years ago

Ben, if you’re concerned about your health and don’t want to smoke a hookah, then don’t.

But don’t fall into the alarmist trap of tobacco haters. In fact, the anti-tobacco groups are notoriously amongst the biggest liars in the field of public health, and yes, you should look skeptically at claims made by them in a populist public health forum.

Nobody is saying that hookah-smoking is harmless. The question is, how bad is is, and specifically, how bad is it compared to conventional cigarette smoking? As a point of reference, the average American cigarette smoker smokes 20 cigarettes every day. The “average” American hookah user is probably smoking a few times per month.

There is actually plenty of scientific research on the effect of chronic hookah use in the Middle East in places where this form of smoking is highly popular, and on the chemical constituents of hookah smoke (which can vary fairly dramatically based on type of shisha used, and even from pipe to pipe).

Without re-hashing all of it (way beyond the scope of a short post like this) in short: Hookahs do make more smoke in absolute terms than cigarettes. . .of course they do. . .they’re burning a solid brick of charcoal for an hour, and their loaded with substantially more tobacco mix than a cigarette. But to the point, most of these products of combustion are not actually inhaled.

In terms of what actually *IS* inhaled, since the tobacco leaf in shisha is heated not burned like in cigarettes, the QUALITY of the inhaled shisha smoke isn’t as bad as cigarette smoke. The worst consituents of cigarettes smoke are products of combustion, something that isn’t supposed to happen in a properly set-up hookah. With a hookah in particular, at least some of the visible “smoke” is actually relatively low-risk glycerol vapor, not high-risk tobacco combustion product. In short, a hookah functions a bit more like a modern “e-cigarette” vaporizer than a classical stem tobacco pipe.

Although the idea that hookahs “filter out all the toxins” is most certainly false. . .chemically speaking, hookah smoke contains nicotine, tars, heavy metals, and carcinogens (some of these things from the charcoal. . .not the shisha). . .the absolute levels of exposure through a hookah are less (not more) than conventional cigarette smoke. For example, testing has been done to see how much nicotine hookahs smokers have in the bloodstream after an hour session. The answer is that they typically have nicotine levels comparable to smoking 2 cigarettes. . .not dozens of cigarettes, and certainly not 100 cigarettes, as is widely reported by credulous anti-smoking organizations.

More to the point, fairly good longitudinal studies on long term smokers in the middle east have been done. Instead of guessing about what long term hookah use “might” do, we can actually look in the real world and see what it DOES do to people. When you do that, you find that long term hookah smokers do get all the same types of bronchitis, chronic obstructive lung disease, etc, as smokers do. . .just to a considerably lesser extent.

Bottom line, yes hookah smoking is bad for you, and the more you do it, the more you can expect to increase your risk for chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and cancer, just like conventional smokers. But ultimately like any toxic exposure, its a question of how intense and how often. . .the dose makes the poison. If you can keep your use infrequent, you can probably moderate (though not eliminate) the risk.

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