HOW DOES IT WORK?
A hookah is for the most part an inefficient vaporizer. Coals (of compressed coconuts here @ IHL) are used to heat the shisha loosley packed in a bowl which allows air flow into the top and down through the bottom. The heat evaporates the liqud sugars and flavoring, so your actually inhaling the evaporate rather than combusting the tobacco and inhahling smoke. Smoke requires something burning, and if the tobacco in one of our hookahs than something is going very wrong! You will typically hear the terms “smoke” & “smoking” when referring to hookah use as the terms come from traditional Middle Eastern usage in where coals are placed directly on tobacco leaves in some preperations. Yet to hear anyone mention wanting to inhale some flavored glucose evaporate, all though these days people are “vapeing” those E-cigs…Either way there is a big difference between a cigarette that burns at 600-900⁰F and a hookah bowl that bakes at 100-150⁰C.
When you take a pull off a hookah, you are pulling the heat from the coals down through the bowl heating the shisha mixture and evaporating the liquid content which is then pulled down the stem, through the water in the base, out the hose and into your lungs. The water serves to cool the aerosol to make it easier to inhale and also has the added effect of filtering out some of the toxic compounds, particularly the airborne particles, the majority of carcinogens and 50% of the TAR. Some studies have shown the water in the base of a hookah to be more toxic than the aerosol so dont drink it!
That’s the basic science behind how a hookah works. The act of combining all of these elements into making a hookah work well for extended periods of time, however, is an art form we could spend the rest of our lives discussing.