Focus on Prevention

Smoking, Vaping & Hookah

Smoking, vaping, and hookah use are common forms of tobacco and nicotine consumption that pose significant health risks. It’s important to understand the harms associated with these habits and the resources available to help individuals quit. This page aims to provide a brief overview of smoking, vaping, and hookah, along with resources specific to quitting in New York State.


Smoking refers to the inhalation of tobacco smoke produced by burning cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It contains thousands of chemicals, including nicotine, which is highly addictive. Smoking is a leading cause of preventable diseases, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders. It also negatively impacts the health of those exposed to secondhand smoke.


Vaping refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. These devices, commonly known as e-cigarettes or vapes, use a battery-powered heating element to aerosolize a liquid solution (e-liquid or vape juice), creating a vapor that is then inhaled. Here are key components and aspects of vaping:

  • Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes): Vaping devices come in various shapes and sizes, with some resembling traditional cigarettes, pens, or larger devices. They are designed to be portable and convenient.
  • E-Liquid or Vape Juice: The liquid used in vaping devices typically contains a mixture of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavorings, and often nicotine. Some vape juices are nicotine-free.
  • Heating Element: Vaping devices are equipped with a heating element, often called a coil or atomizer, which is activated when the user inhales or presses a button. The heating element turns the e-liquid into vapor.

  • Vapor Production: When the e-liquid is heated, it produces a vapor that is then inhaled by the user. This vapor may resemble smoke but is distinct from the combustion process of burning tobacco in traditional cigarettes.

  • Nicotine Content: Many vaping products contain nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco. However, there are nicotine-free options available for those who wish to vape without the addictive component.

  • Flavors: Vape juices come in a wide range of flavors, including fruit, dessert, menthol, and more. The availability of various flavors has been a point of controversy, especially concerning their appeal to youth.
  • Regulation: Vaping products are subject to regulations that vary by country and region. Authorities aim to address concerns related to youth access, marketing, product safety, and ingredient transparency.

  • Intended Use: While some people use vaping as a smoking cessation aid, intending to reduce or quit tobacco use, others may use vaping recreationally or as a social activity.

  • Health Concerns: The long-term health effects of vaping are still being studied, but concerns have been raised about potential risks, including respiratory issues. Vaping-related lung injuries have also been reported, often associated with the use of illicit or adulterated substances.

It’s important for individuals, especially young people, to be aware of the potential risks associated with vaping. While some adults may use vaping as a harm reduction tool, non-smokers and youth are strongly discouraged from initiating vaping due to the potential health consequences and the risk of nicotine addiction.


Hookah use involves smoking tobacco through a water pipe, also known as a hookah or shisha. This traditional method of smoking has cultural roots in various parts of the world and has gained popularity in social settings. Here are key aspects of hookah use:

  • Water Pipe (Hookah): A hookah consists of a water pipe with a bowl at the top, a water base, a hose, and a mouthpiece. The bowl holds flavored tobacco, known as shisha or maassel.
  • Flavored Tobacco (Shisha): Shisha is a type of tobacco mixed with molasses and flavorings. It comes in various flavors such as fruit, mint, or herbal blends. The tobacco is placed in the bowl and heated with charcoal.

  • Charcoal: Charcoal is used to heat the shisha in the bowl. The heated tobacco produces smoke, which passes through the water in the base before being inhaled through the hose.

  • Water Filtration: The water in the base serves as a filtration system. It does not make the smoke less harmful, but it may cool the smoke and remove some impurities.

  • Hose and Mouthpiece: Users inhale the flavored smoke through a hose connected to the hookah. The mouthpiece is the final part through which the smoke is inhaled.

  • Nicotine Content: Hookah tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive substance found in tobacco. Users can become addicted to nicotine through regular hookah smoking.

  • Social and Cultural Aspect: Hookah smoking is often a social activity, and hookah lounges or cafes provide a setting for individuals to gather and enjoy the experience together. It is popular in many Middle Eastern, South Asian, and North African cultures.

  • Perceived Harmlessness: Some individuals perceive hookah smoking as less harmful than cigarette smoking. However, hookah smoke contains harmful substances, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and carcinogenic chemicals. Additionally, the water filtration does not eliminate these harmful components.

  • Health Risks: Despite common misconceptions, hookah smoking poses health risks similar to or even exceeding those of cigarette smoking. It is associated with respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and an increased risk of certain cancers.

  • Regulation: The regulation of hookah use varies by country and region. In some places, there are restrictions on hookah smoking in public places, similar to regulations for cigarette smoking.

It’s important for individuals to be aware of the potential health risks associated with hookah smoking and to make informed choices about their tobacco and nicotine consumption. Like other forms of tobacco use, hookah smoking carries health hazards, and efforts to quit or reduce use are recommended for those looking to protect their health.

Resources for Quitting in NYS

A free and confidential helpline that provides support, information, and resources to individuals seeking to quit tobacco. Trained specialists offer personalized coaching and can assist with creating a quit plan.

Partnership to End Addiction offers a great guide to help parents talk to their kids about vaping.

An online resource created by the National Cancer Institute that offers evidence-based tools and information to help individuals quit smoking. It provides step-by-step quit plans, live chat support, mobile apps, and more.

The NYS DOH offers a variety of resources, including informational materials, guides, and online resources related to quitting smoking and tobacco use. Visit their website or contact the DOH for more information.

Smokefree Teen helps teens stop using tobacco by providing information grounded in scientific evidence and offering free tools that meet teens where they are—on their mobile phones. Our text messaging program can help teens quit smoking and our quitSTART app helps teens become smoke free by providing helpful strategies for tackling cravings, bad moods, and other situations where teens may smoke. Teens can also make a personalized quit plan to quit smoking or vaping.

The first-of-its-kind program to help young people quit vaping, This is Quitting has helped over 600,000 youth and young adults on their journey to quit vaping. Learn more about how it works and the additional resources available for parents of young vapers and for adults who want to quit. Teens and young adults can join for free by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709.

Check with your local health department or community organizations for support groups or cessation programs available in your area. These groups often provide a supportive environment and additional resources to aid in the quitting process.

Remember, quitting smoking, vaping, or using hookah is a journey that requires determination and support. By taking the first step, you’re prioritizing your health and well-being.