Smoking a shisha gives off as much carbon monoxide as 15 to 52 cigarettes and as much tar as 27 to 102 cigarettes, said a French national laboratory report cited by the French anti-tobacco agency (OFT).
The report confirms that "shisha is a major source of air pollution in closed and covered areas," OFT said in a statement. If comparing the data to regular cigarette smoke, one shisha corresponds to an average of around 70 drags on a cigarette, OFT President Bertrand Dautzenberg said.
The tests were conducted by Laboratoire National d'Essais (LNE) on three types of shisha: shisha with self-lighting carbon used in small amounts, self-lighting carbon used in large amounts, and natural carbon shisha used in small volumes.
The laboratory used the three parameters that are measured when analysing smoke on a packet of cigarettes: the amount of tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide.
For 70 liters (16 gallons) of smoke produced by the shisha, the small amount self lighting carbon tar results were measured at 319 milligrams, 32 times the legal European limit for a cigarette, while the large amount self-lighting carbon measured at 266 milligrams, 27 times the cigarette limit, and the natural carbon measured at 1,023 milligrams, a whopping 102 times more than a cigarette.
Carbon monoxide measurements fared badly as well, as tests indicated that the carbon measurements from the three types of shisha came to 17 times the normal cigarette limit, 15 times, and 52 times the limit.
The self-lighting carbon in both large and small amounts for nicotine measured about one cigarette per shisha, while the natural carbon was the nicotine equivalent of smoking six cigarettes.
France's hookah-pipe bars pleaded to be spared from a ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants which comes into force on January 1, hoping for an arrangement like the one reached in Quebec, where hookah-pipe bars were spared from a smoking ban adopted last year for cultural reasons.
Tea shops offering the Oriental-style water pipes, used for smoking herbal fruits and tobacco, have become popular in France since 2000 as the trend caught on in the country's North African community and beyond.
Some 200 bars, half of them in Paris, now serve an estimated one million customers each year, according to the Union of Hookah-Pipe Professionals (UPN).