HOOKAH BAN EXPLAINER: Or how the hookah found its groove

HOOKAH BAN EXPLAINER: Or how the hookah found its groove

Graphic and information by Aesthetic Intelligence

Given that city councillors today vowed to ban hookah pipes on city property, we bring you Ottawa Magazine’s handy guide to hookah, its rise, and possible future decline. This story appears in the Summer edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.

It appears that the city’s rigorous anti-smoking bylaws are having an unintended consequence. As smokers run out of communal places to curb their cravings, hookah bars are quickly becoming all the rage. Allowed under non-smoking regulations only if the product inhaled is herbal, water pipe use is particularly popular with the college crowd. The practice, which is believed to have originated in India over 400 years ago, courted controversy earlier this year when anti-smoking advocates hoped to ban the act, citing health concerns and local product testing that revealed some locations were offering tobacco. For now, though, the hookah is still legit.

Hookah or hukka (South Africa and India), nargile (Middle East), narguile (Spain), shisha or goza (North Africa), qalyan (Iran/Persia), hubble bubble.


2 Number of cigarettes equivalent to a single session of water pipe smoking (conservative estimate).

$12-$15 Typical price of a hookah session.

19 Establishments in Ottawa that provide hookahs for

public use.

23 Percentage of young adults in Montreal (ages 18-24) who reported smoking a water pipe in the previous year (2010 study).

While there is no substantial body of evidence that specifically addresses the health effects of smoking herbal shisha, medical officials warn that smoke inhalation of any kind can cause bodily harm. Significant research does demonstrate, however, that the use of tobacco in water pipe smoking is just as damaging and addictive as cigarette use. Recent studies suggest that average daily water pipe use results in nicotine consumption similar to smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

Researched and illustrated by Aesthetic Intelligence.