A hookah (Hindustani: हुक़्क़ा (Devanagari), حقّہ (Nastaleeq) huqqah) also known as a waterpipe is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) instrument for smoking in which the smoke is cooled and filtered by passing through water. The tobacco smoked is referred to as shisha or sheesha. Originally from the Middle East, hookah has gained popularity, especially in the Middle East and is gaining popularity in North America, Europe, Australia and Brazil.
Depending on locality, hookahs or shishas may be referred to by many names: Arabic language uses it as Shisha (شيشة) or Nargeela (نرجيلة) or Argeela (أركيلة\أرجيلة) and they use it throughout the whole of the Arab World; Nargile (but sometimes pronounced Argileh or Argilee) is the name most commonly used in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Syria. Nargileh derives from the Persian word nārghile, meaning coconut, which in turn is from the Sanskrit word nārikela (नारिकेला), suggesting that early hookahs were hewn from coconut shells.
In Albania, Bosnia, Croatia the hookah is called "Lula" or "Lulava" in Romani, meaning "pipe," the word "shishe" refers to the actual bottle piece.
In Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in much of the eastern and southern former Yugoslavia, "Nargile" (Наргиле) or "Nagile" (Нагиле) is used to refer to the pipe. "šiša" (шиша) usually refers to the nicotine and tar free tobacco that is smoked in it. The pipes there often have one or two mouth pieces. They are usually shared between two people. The flavored tobacco is placed above the water and covered by pierced foil with hot coals placed on top, the smoke is drawn through cold water to cool and filter it. This, "narguile"", is also the common word in Spain, where hookah is also referred to as "cachimba", though Morroccan inmigrants in Spain use the word "shisha".
Shisha (شيشة), from the Persian word shīshe (شیشه), meaning glass, is the common term for the hookah in Egypt and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf (including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia), and in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia and Yemen.
In Iran, hookah is called قلیان "ḡalyān". The name of the implement for smoking, ḡalyān, was apparently derived from the Ar. √ḡlā (to boil, bubble up) which is believed, it was the first name of Hookah too.
In Uzbekistan, hookah is called "Chillim". In India and Pakistan the name most similar to the English hookah is used: huqqa (हुक़्क़ा /حقّہ).
The commonness of the Indian word "hookah" in English is a result of the British Raj, the British dominion of India (1858–1947), when large numbers of expatriate Britons first sampled the water-pipe. William Hickey, shortly after arriving in Kolkata, India, in 1775, wrote in his Memoirs:
The most highly-dressed and splendid hookah was prepared for me. I tried it, but did not like it. As after several trials I still found it disagreeable, I with much gravity requested to know whether it was indispensably necessary that I should become a smoker, which was answered with equal gravity, "Undoubtedly it is, for you might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion. Here everybody uses a hookah, and it is impossible to get on without" have frequently heard men declare they would much rather be deprived of their dinner than their hookah.
Further information: Health effects of tobacco
Although the use of Hookah has been commonly attributed to be much worse than regular tobacco smoke, tests remain inconclusive as to the true health impact of the hookah. Some studies conclude that Hookah smoke is safer than tobacco cigarette smoke, while other studies refute this claim.
Each hookah session typically lasts more than 40 minutes, and consists of 50 to 200 inhalations that each range from 0.15 to 0.50 liters of smoke. Reports by the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society have shown that, in a one-hour hookah session, users consume about 100 to 200 times the smoke and about 70 times more nicotine than they would in one cigarette.
The water used to filter the smoke does not work efficiently to remove all the harmful chemicals.
A study on hookah smoking and cancer in Pakistan was published in 2008. Its objective was "to find serum CEA levels in ever/exclusive hookah smokers, i.e. those who smoked only hookah (no cigarettes, bidis, etc.), prepared between 1 and 4 times a day with a quantity of up to 120 g (the average bowl in holds 30g) of a tobacco-molasses mixture each (i.e. the tobacco weight equivalent of up to 60 cigarettes of 1 g each) and consumed in 1 to 8 sessions". Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a marker found in several forms of cancer. Levels in exclusive hookah smokers were lower compared to cigarette smokers although the difference was not statistically significant between a hookah smoker and a non-smoker. Also the study concluded that heavy hookah smoking (2–4 daily preparations; 3–8 sessions a day ; 2 to 6 hours) substantially raises CEA levels.