The other day I saw one of my friends, who was mixing lemon juice directly into the flavour chimney (or wind guard) and water pot of hooka. When I asked why are you doing as such, he said that it makes inhaling hooka smoke passive. By passive, I mean easily inhalable without any hiccups or harshness. I have tried it, it really makes the smoke passive. But how did this happen?

Here is a diagrammatic view of working principle of hooka:

enter image description here

Here is a list of ingredients of hooka flavour which he used, it was of about 200 grams:

glycerol 70 %

18 % mollases

5 % synthetic edible flavours

5 % sodium xanthate

0.05 % nicotine and 1.95 % water

the temperature at which glycerol boils (and hence the smoke appears) is 290 °C,

By adding lemon juice, we are actually adding citric acid to it, so what would be the products obtained heating that flavour at the given temperature which reduces harshness of hooka.

My friend says the water present at the bottom in the hooka pot, serves for the purification of nicotine present in the flavour (which I can't believe), and he further adds that adding lemon juice to it will act as a filter for nicotine, hence reducing its harshness. [I think there shouldn't be any harshness due to nicotine as it is in a very low concentration i.e. measurable in the order of milligrams per puff, see the comments beside the answer below]

So the harshness must be due to other substances present in the mixture, such as glycerol ( which wouldn't cause harshness as it is in the vapour state), mollases and other flavoured substances along with sodium xanthate, here is molecular structure of mollasses

enter image description here

is mollasses causing harshness, then what is the left over debris after all the flavour is exhausted, many individuals say that the left over & exhausted part of the flavour is nothing but the molasses itself.

and coming to the other substances present in the flavour.

the knowledge which i have gathered from online sources is, the reaction between glycerol and citric acid yields a polymer in a controlled and catalysed reaction, called PGC, which is generally obtained at the temperature of 150°C, but here in this case the temperature is above 290°C i.e. boiling point of glycerol.

so the fact is that, no polymer is obtained while inhaling hooka, as the glycerol is in its vapour state and citic acid being, very acidic {1M citric acid has a pH value of 2}, so it is nearly in its dissociated state {the lemon juice was mixed in water present in the water pot},

enter image description here
Citric acid

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ I changed the title to be more in line with what you are asking, since the site is not really in a position to evaluate any health claims. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Aug 18, 2014 at 23:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The safest way to inhale a hooka is to not use tobacco (flavour). Harshness is also no very well defined concept, it is very subjective. In your setup you are burning things/stuffs/chemicals, not only boiling/vaporizing them. As there is an unknown number of chemicals present in the flavour, you cannot determine which may or may not cause harshness. And then again, lemon juice is also a mixture of many chemicals. The answer that you are looking for is far beyond easy. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2014 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin wow, i didn't know uptill now that hooka can be inhaled without flavour, can you please elaborate it, i am unable to understand what you said $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2014 at 13:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @agharehanabbas The intention behind my post was to tell you not to smoke. Inhaling smoke of any kind is not healthy and even adding lemon juice to anything won't change that. $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2014 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin ok got it... thanks anyway, but is it possible to calculate molarity of lemon juice domestically, i mean by using kitchen utensils and some other measuring stuffs ?? $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2014 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


The acidic water is probably protonating nicotine, causing it to carry a positive charge. Once charged, the resulting nicotinium cation will not be volatile, but rather, highly soluble. Based on this, I would expect that acidifying the water causes a much lower amount of nicotine to be pulled through the exit hose (because it is trapped in the acidic water).

  • $\begingroup$ as you said, the nicotinium ion would contain +ve charge, on which atom would the +ve charge reside then ?? see here1 for its structure [1]: t0.gstatic.com/… $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2014 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ but would that minimal concentration of nicotine cause harshness ?? $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2014 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ as per calculations, there is a total of 0.1 grams of nicotine in total sachet, 0.025 grams in one 50 grams { which was the quantuty taken in the flavour chimney} and that 50 grams would last for nearly 150- 300 puffs, if we consider even distribution of nicotine through the mixture ( which we can't actually) it would result in a value of milligrams, so i wont think it would cause harshness $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2014 at 19:32

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