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 by the public. However, both tobacco and non-tobacco shisha smoke pose serious health risks to smokers and individuals exposed to second and third-hand smoke.

Hookah or waterpipe smoking is 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 311 or email mlsbusinesslicence@toronto.ca. For more information on the prohibition on 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 have many parts and may include a head, a body, a bowl filled with water or other liquids and one or more hoses with mouthpieces for inhaling the smoke produced by the hookah.

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

How does smoking a hookah affect my health?

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

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). Carbon monoxide poisoning can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. This can lead to headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and death.

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.

Second-hand hookah smoke is also a health risk to non-smoking patrons, staff, enforcement officers, and first responders.