The art of smoking hookah has been around for centuries and over those centuries the art form has gained traction. Although studies have shown that hookah smoking may be just as bad as or even worse than smoking cigarettes.
“Tobacco smoking in any form is very bad for your health and can cause health complications,” says Professor Deb Chakravarti a York College chemistry professor, and also director of York College’s FDA Partnership and Pharmaceutical Sciences Program, in an interview.
Hookah is also known as shisha, narghile, and hubble-bubble. Hookah smoking involves using a water pipe to smoke flavored or sweetened tobacco. Smoking hookah is a tradition that’s at least 500 years old. The tradition originated in northern Africa and southwest Asia. Smoking hookah was mostly done in Middle Eastern countries but is now growing in popularity worldwide and is common in the United States.
Hookah Smoking is catering to a new set of tobacco users. The Oxford Journal on Nicotine and Tobacco Research, finds that 1 in 3 college students has smoked hookah at some point; more than 50% of those students were not cigarette smokers.
“It’s very popular and is seen as a way to socialize. Hookah smoking is like going to a bar and having a drink with friends, instead the alcohol is replaced with hookah pipes.” Said Elijah Gardner, 20, a York College business major in an interview.
New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research states that eighteen percent of students reported hookah use in the past year. Compared with white students, black students were at lower odds for use.
It has become a social norm, drawing the 18 and over crowd into the cloudy smoke filled rooms of hookah lounges. According to a poll a majority of young adults 18 to 30 who smoke hookah think it’s safe.
“Hookah smoking is seen as harmless to many people because, many people think the toxins are being filtered by the water,” said Professor Deb Chakravarti, a chemistry professor at York College in an interview.
Contrary to popular belief hookah smoke is no less dangerous than cigarette smoke. A smoke session of hookah, of sixty minutes delivers enough tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), that it is like smoking a pack of cigarettes. In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than are cigarette smokers, according to Mayo Clinic.
“Hookah smoking is cheap, and fun,” said Natasha Turner, 21, an Aviation Management major at York College, in an interview. She also adds “It’s also a good way to get friends together. Even though they both are tobacco, hookah is a social tobacco, you’re not just smoking your listening to music, you’re talking, and you’re having a good time.”
Many people have a greater understanding of what cigarettes can do to your body. Indoor smoking bans, and tobacco product marketing restrictions have increased public awareness. Commercials portraying the outcomes of many cigarette smokers’ lives, as well as upbeat commercials as the popular “Left Swipe Dat” ad geared towards younger tobacco smokers have decreased cigarette smoking in the United States during the past 45 years.
However, the use of alternative forms of tobacco, such as hookah, is rising, threatening these successful efforts according to JAMA Pediatrics.
“I use to be a smoker. I quit, after I realized I had smoked 80 cigarettes in one day. Hookah being a tobacco product is no better for you.” Said professor Chakravarti.