July 9, 2014
A few years ago, two of my friends and I who were all pretty much living together at the time got together and went out to a hookah bar. We rented the hookah, bought some strawberry flavored tobacco for it, went up into the loft at the bar, which was nice and quiet, and enjoyed an evening of casual conversation around the pipe. It was nice, but not something any of us would do regularly.
Since then, the popularity of these places has been on the rise. Understandable, considering the crackdown on cigarette smoking on many campuses and public venues, not to mention fines for tossing out the butts while driving. On top of that, the one my friends and I went to was a very nice place. It was calm, relaxing, and I could certainly imagine myself lounging there from time to time were I a more socially outgoing individual. What I do find odd is how so many young people out there do this not simply because it is enjoyable, but because they actually believe that it is less dangerous – or even not dangerous at all – than smoking cigarettes.
Recent studies have shown cigarette smoking to be on the decline while hookah smoking is rapidly increasing, especially among college students. This is not all that surprising, considering that it is the only form of tobacco use that is not regulated in the United States. It is also an exemption from clean indoor air legislation, such as the California Clean Air Act. In California there are more than 2,000 shops that sell hookahs, hookah tobacco, and other related products. There are also 175 hookah lounges and cafes, many of which are in Los Angeles and many of those are near to universities and colleges, providing easy access to students.
According to a study done by the UCLA School of Nursing, there are a lot of people out there who believe that smoking from water pipes is not in any way harmful to your health, despite many warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In visiting three different hookah lounges in Southern California, researchers asked patrons between the ages of 18 and 30 if they believed that smoking a hookah was harmful to their health. Among those they asked, 57 percent said that they did not think so. When asked why they thought this, 47 percent said that they thought that the smoke gets filtered through the water. Another 35 percent said that they thought the fruit used to give the tobacco flavor somehow detoxified any harmful chemicals found therein. Finally, 16 percent said that they thought hookahs were not harmful because the tobacco is not addictive because it did not contain nicotine.
Unfortunately for them, none of this is true.
Now, do not get me wrong. I actually do not have a problem with smoking. As I stated before, I too enjoyed my time at a hookah lounge. I believe that it is a personal choice, and if someone wants to smoke then it is their right to do so. It’s there body, after all. However, I feel that this level of misunderstanding the risks of smoking is dangerous as it eliminates a person’s ability to make an informed decision. This problem is not being helped by the marketing of hookah smoke claiming that it is a healthier alternative to cigarettes, as this really is not the case. If anything, this only adds to the problem.
If you are going to smoke a hookah, then all I ask is that you know what risks it has. If you do, then by all means enjoy.
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