The Dangers of the Hookah Fad

Writer: Ben Yarberry

Hookah is the latest fad for young adults. Hookah lounges are crowded and smoke shops are available in every city for hookah supplies. Hookah smoking is a relatively harmless way to spend an evening according to avid hookah consumers. But according to recent studies, it is more harmful than it appears.

Hookah originated in India nearly a millennium ago. Hookah back then was not the hookah we know now. The first hookahs were made with a coconut shell base and a tube with the head attached according to Hookah Company. Oh, but how far we have come now. “Many consider hookah designs a work of art”, said Brian Artello who is one of the managers of Smoke City in Jacksonville, Florida. Artello explains how this is becoming an ever popular trend in the youth culture of today. He explained that the customers that come into his store are mostly college students who are looking to buy coals and shisha, a flavored tobacco. “Just look around town; you are seeing more and more hookah lounges nowadays”, said Artello.

But there is a darker and more concerning side of smoking hookah as well. According to Center for Disease Control, hookah tobacco contains many of the same harmful ingredients as cigarettes, and can lead to lung cancer and respiratory illness. Christian Campbell, an avid hookah smoker, believes that smoking hookah is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. He feels that hookah is more of a social thing amongst the younger college crowd. “I was 18 when I first tried hookah, and I was exposed to it from my friends that were in the military. They came back from the Middle East and brought hookahs back with them,” states Campbell.

How different is smoking hookah oppose to cigarettes? A typical hookah session will last around an hour, involving 200 puffs while an average cigarette is 20 puffs according to Center for Disease Control. The CDC also states that there is a higher chance of absorbing toxins smoking hookah due to deep inhalation and multiple puffs. The Huffington Post states that smoking hookah for an hour is the equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes. Shaun Hayes, who has been smoking hookah for eight years now, disagrees. “I feel that is so far from the truth and gives people the wrong idea about hookah. When you smoke for an hour, it usually is not just you. You are constantly passing the hookah hose to other partakers”, he said.

If hookah is so bad for you, what is being done to stop this health hazard? According to the group, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, there is a strong surge to stop hookah lounges. The group is concerned that hookah lounges are targeting college towns, and this puts pressure on young people to smoke who would normally not. Because smoking hookah is such a social activity, young adults may smoke because it’s a novelty, the group feels. Campbell, again disagrees, “I have never felt like I was pressured into smoking hookah, it was always a choice. If I went to a hookah lounge, I went to smoke”, said Campbell.

Many would agree that the reason why cigarettes are so bad for your health is because they are so addictive. “It is a never-ending cycle of trying to quit”, said Hayes. Is hookah as addictive as cigarettes? According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking hookah is no different than smoking a cigarette. It has the same amount of nicotine in many aspects. “I have smoked both hookah and cigarettes, and I can tell you that hookah has no addictive effects for me”, said Hayes. Campbell explains that for him it is all about personal control. “In my opinion, sometimes I do feel a urge to smoke hookah. But it has never controlled my life like a cigarette would”.

It does seem that hookah is a strong trend with college students, and, for now, it looks like it is here to stay. Young adults enjoy the novelty and the social aspect of smoking hookah. Despite research stating that smoking hookah is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, many of these young adults continue to ignore the warnings. They see it as just another way to interact and socialize. Hopefully, young consumers will educate themselves and make themselves aware of the possible dangers.

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