Ravenís Yellow Curtains.

A Letter from Raven K.-S. (raven[at]corax.com), sent March 20, 2007. This Citizen Obviously Wants to Share His Ownthough PeculiarExperience of Hookah Smoking


Dear Mr. [KC],

I recently read your critique of the WHO report concerning the smoking

of hookah pipes. As you might be aware of, articles condemning the use

of hookahs have become epidemic lately, all stating that hookah smoking

is equally dangerous, if not more, that cigarette smoking.

This collides heavily with my own experience. As I know nothing about

chemistry, I can only judge by what I see and notice myself.

I am a passionated hookah smoker for about seven or eight years now.

Before that I was a heavy cigarette smoker which already began to affect

my health in a worrying manner. However, that I did quit cigarettes in

favor of hookah was nothing but chance when I wasn't so fond of the

idea to quit smoking. My first hookah was bought as a decoration only,

then curiosity got the best of me and a couple of weeks later I had

completely changed to the hookah. When I was used to the hookah

I simply did not like cigarettes anymore.

Now when I read articles about the dangers of hookah smoking and how

it is even worse that cigarette smoking I can only shake my head.

Nicotine - doubtlessly present in shisha tobacco, it must be less than

in cigarettes since I well remember how hard the first two weeks of my

change from cigarettes to hookah have been. Back then it definetely

wasn't as much nicotine (?) as I was used to, and in spite of my

growing aversion against the stench of cigarettes I missed my regular

dosis of nicotine (or whatever).

Tar - what I cherished most with the hookah was the presumed absence

of tar. Or to speak from a house wife's point of view: there were no more

yellow curtains, no more yellow walls, the old yellowish 'nicotine layers'

(as they were commonly called) from cigarette smoking were gone.

(And I know what I'm talking about - I had an extremely hard time cleaning

up my complete apartement plus all my belongings once the cigarettes

were gone. It's unbelievable how much dirt cigarettes produce - the hookah

produces none of it)

Lastly - my health. My bronchitis started to get better within a year and

is completely gone now. Stomache problems are a thing of the past,

and my heart/blood circulation is quite normal today.

Those problems were contributed to my heavy cigarette smoking (I smoked

up to 25 cigarettes a day for about 18 years). The changes in my health

after the quit were dramatic and the doctors thought I had quit smoking


I didn't, I still smoke. I'm even a quite excessive smoker with about three

to five hookahs a day. A worst case example, so to say..

Were the alarmist reports about the dangers of hookah smoking true

how should I explain my own experience? As a wondrous miracle cure

that had nothing to do with my changed smoking habits at all? I cannot

believe that.

Is my way of smoking hookah any special? I use natural charcoal only,

I don't use aluminium foil but metal screens for the bowl to keep the

charcoal at least 0,5 cm from the tobacco. As for tobacco I use molasses

tobacco i.e. tobamel. I'm a rather slow smoker as well - since I mostly

sit at the computer a pipe usually lasts about 90 minutes. Finally, I am

a notorious single smoker - if I have visitors willing to smoke a hookah

they will get one for themselves. This might be unusual but I am used

to it.

Please don't misunderstand me - I don't want a confirmation that hookah

smoking is harmless. Smoking is still smoking and nicotine is nicotine.

I for example don't have the slightest ambition to reduce my smoking which

is of course a kind of addiction as well. (Okay, I am not willing to reduce

my chocolate consumption either...)

But, I do see it as a preferrable alternative to cigarette smoking and I do

believe that a smoker who does not want to quit smoking at all would be

well advised to consider the change to the hookah. In my case it was

a very good decision, and even one that is nicer to all my non-smoking

friends since they do not have to tolerate the bad smell of cigarettes


The reports claiming that smoking hookah is as bad or even worse than

smoking cigarettes however sharply collide with my opinion and experience.

Even when considering a high amount of subjectivity on my side there is

a clear clash of my reality and their statements.

I lack any scientific knowledge to contradict those reports so all that is left

to me are doubts on their credibility and vague ideas of their intentions.

Were I fond of conspiracy theories I would likely presume those reports

were sponsored by the cigarette industry in order to prevent cigarette

smokers from flocking over to the bubbling rivals.

I'm sorry if this is getting far too long and most likely of no interest for

you. I understand that it is not desirable that hordes of teenagers start

smoking hookah - on the other hand what speaks against cigarette

smokers change to a clearly less fatal alternative? I cannot be such a

big exception, after all.

And lastly, maybe you know what exactly caused the yellow layers

when smoking cigarettes? It must be something present in cigarette

tobacco but not in hookah tobacco, so what is it?

With best regards,

R. [K.-S.]


[this document is published with authorís permission]