The trendy, sophisticated image of smoking cigarettes has changed drastically from its peak during the 1950s and 1960s. Today, smoking is viewed as undesirable due to the understanding it is detrimental to one’s health. As a result of this, smoking cigarettes has reached an all time low among both students and adults. However, a different method of smoking is becoming increasingly popular—hookah.
A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence viewed the popularity of hookah among university students. The study found “even the lowest prevalence suggests that substantial numbers of college students are water pipe users.”
In San Marcos, there are four hookah lounges, all within close proximity to campus. Students often find advertisements for hookah bars near Alkek. Flyers are sometimes handed out in popular areas such as the Quad. The mere act of advertising hookah is dangerous. Universities should do more to educate students on the danger of smoking hookah.
The general perception is that hookah is somehow safer than smoking cigarettes. When first created, hookah was thought to be a safer way to smoke tobacco. One study found 89.5 percent of beginning smokers believed hookah was safer than smoking cigarettes. This statistic is alarming and uncovers the lack of education regarding hookah.
The reason people believe smoking hookah is safer is because of the way the tobacco is smoked. The tobacco is heated by charcoal, and the smoke is cooled by water before entering the lungs. This provides a smoother smoking experience. However, the CDC found smoking in this way is “at least as toxic as cigarette smoking.”
When drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, most students understand the consequences to these actions. However, students have a misconception that hookah is a safer alternative.
Typically, when people smoke hookah, it is in a social setting. Due to flavorings and the smooth texture of the smoke, it is easy to inhale deeply for long periods of time. Smoke sessions can last anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes, causing the inhalation of toxic chemicals and cancer causing gases. One hookah session is approximately the equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes.
Sadly, there are more associated risks when smoking hookah. According to the World Health Organization, sharing the hookah mouthpiece poses a risk of transmitting communicable diseases, such as hepatitis or tuberculosis. The risk increases if mouthpieces are not properly cleaned in-between customers. Second-hand smoke can also pose a health risk.
According to the CDC, the non-tobacco hookah products have also been shown to produce carbon monoxide and other cancer related health issues.
Taking all this information into account, it is important students understand hookah is not a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. Students should be properly informed about their decisions and know what they are doing is harmful to their bodies. This way, they can make their own, well-informed decision whether to smoke.
Although it may appear trendy, students should know the decisions they make now could drastically affect their health in the future. It is important to be completely educated when making these risky decisions. Health is valuable and not something to be taken for granted.
-John Lee is a marketing sophomore