Water-pipe smoking is a type of smoking habit, widely encountered in Turkey and Arabic and Middle East countries. However there is limited data about the effects of water-pipe smoking. The aim of this study is to investigate this habit with regard to the duration and amount of smoking and to analyse its characteristics and effects on pulmonary function by the correlation of the results with those of cigarette smokers and non-smokers. All cafés in Izmir city were visited for this purpose. A total of 397 males were studied in four groups: water-pipe smokers, water-pipe smokers who used to smoke cigarettes, active cigarette smokers and non-smokers. After recording a detailed history of smoking, pulmonary function tests on each person were performed. There were statistically significant differences between cigarette smokers and non-smokers within most of the parameters. The results of recent study have shown that the detrimental effects on pulmonary function of water-pipe smoking are not as great as cigarette smoking (FEV1, FEV1/FVC parameters were higher in water-pipe smokers), especially on the parameters for small airways (FEF50, MMEF parameters were higher in water-pipe smokers) (P < 0.05). It is difficult to explain the reasons exactly without estimating possible mechanisms in detail, but the most likely mechanisms arise from the smoking technique itself which involves a water filter and a long spout through which the smoke passes before reaching the lungs.