A hookah is a device that is used to smoke moist tobacco or non-tobacco (herbal) products known as shisha. Hookah and shisha use is becoming increasingly popular in Toronto, as it is often considered a healthier option than cigarette smoking. However, both tobacco and non-tobacco shisha smoke pose serious health risks to smokers and individuals exposed to second-hand smoke.

Beginning April 1, 2016, “hookah” or “waterpipe” smoking will be prohibited in all establishments licensed or required to be licensed under Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 545, Licensing. Establishments include cafes, bars/restaurants, stores and other businesses. For more information regarding Business Licensing requirements please call 416-392-6700 or email mlsbusinesslicence@toronto.ca. For more information on the prohibition of hookah smoking in licensed establishments or to report a violation, call 416-338-7600 or email publichealth@toronto.ca.

What is a hookah?

A hookah is a device that is used to smoke moist tobacco or non-tobacco (herbal) products known as shisha.

The term ‘hookah’ is one of many names for this smoking device. Hookahs are also commonly known as:

  • waterpipes
  • narghiles
  • hubble bubble
  • ghelyoons
  • ghalyans
  • gozas
  • arghiles

Hookahs are made up of four parts: a head, a body, a bowl filled with water, and one or more hoses with mouthpieces for inhaling smoke

Charcoal is used to heat the shisha in the head and produce smoke, which is cooled by the water before the user inhales it. The water does not filter harmful chemicals and particles from the smoke.

How does smoking a hookah affect my health?

People who smoke tobacco shisha are at risk for similar health effects as cigarette smoking, including:

  • heart disease
  • emphysema
  • lung cancer
  • throat cancer
  • gum disease
  • osteoporosis

Compared to cigarettes, tobacco shisha smoke contains greater levels of carbon monoxide and toxic metals (cobalt, chromium, nickel, cadmium and lead).

Herbal shisha smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, as well as carbon monoxide and tar.

Because hookah users often share a hose or a mouthpiece during a smoking session, they are at greater risk of contracting tuberculosis, meningitis, hepatitis and herpes.