Waterpipe smoking and nicotine exposure: a review of the current evidence

Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Oct;9(10):987-94. doi: 10.1080/14622200701591591.


The waterpipe, also known as shisha, hookah, narghile, goza, and hubble bubble, has long been used for tobacco consumption in the Middle East, India, and parts of Asia, and more recently has been introduced into the smokeless tobacco market in western nations. We reviewed the published literature on waterpipe use to estimate daily nicotine exposure among adult waterpipe smokers. We identified six recent studies that measured the nicotine or cotinine levels associated with waterpipe smoking in four countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, and India). Four of these studies directly measured nicotine or cotinine levels in human subjects. The remaining two studies used smoking machines to measure the nicotine yield in smoking condensate produced by the waterpipe. Meta-analysis of the human data indicated that daily use of the waterpipe produced a 24-hr urinary cotinine level of 0.785 microg/ml (95% CI = 0.578-0.991 microg/ml), a nicotine absorption rate equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes/day (95% CI = 7-13 cigarettes/day). Even among subjects who were not daily waterpipe smokers, a single session of waterpipe use produced a urinary cotinine level that was equivalent to smoking two cigarettes in one day. Estimates of the nicotine produced by waterpipe use can vary because of burn temperature, type of tobacco, waterpipe design, individual smoking pattern, and duration of the waterpipe smoking habit. Our quantitative synthesis of the limited human data from four nations indicates that daily use of waterpipes produces nicotine absorption of a magnitude similar to that produced by daily cigarette use.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cotinine / urine*
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Jordan / epidemiology
  • Kuwait / epidemiology
  • Lebanon / epidemiology
  • Nicotine / urine*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / urine*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / analysis*


  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine