Waterpipe (hookah, narghile) tobacco smoking (WTS) is becoming prevalent worldwide and is one of the most popular forms of tobacco use among youth. WTS prevalence has increased dramatically among youth in the United States within the past decade. Misperceived as less harmful than cigarette smoking, WTS is associated with many of the same chronic health effects such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, bronchitis, and asthma. Much of this risk is due to the fact that a single WTS session exposes users to large volumes of smoke that contain toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide, cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile aldehydes. Unlike cigarette smoking, WTS poses unique risks of acute negative health outcomes including carbon monoxide poisoning and the spread of communicable diseases such as herpes and tuberculosis. Because waterpipe tobacco smoke contains the addictive chemical nicotine, youth who smoke tobacco from a waterpipe may be at risk for dependence. As a result, many youth may initiate WTS and continue to use despite negative health effects. Considering many of the potential negative health effects associated with WTS affect the pulmonary system, pulmonologists and primary care providers may treat patients who are waterpipe tobacco smokers and should be aware of the risk associated with WTS. The purpose of this review is to describe a waterpipe, the prevalence and correlates of WTS, the toxicants found in waterpipe tobacco smoke, the health effects of WTS, and implications for pulmonologists and other clinicians.
Keywords: Waterpipe tobacco smoking; health effects; prevalence and correlates; smoke toxicants; youth.