Popular student past-time poses serious health threat

Ariel Galura

Throughout the United States, hookah, also known as waterpipe smoking, continues to grow as the new tobacco trend of the 21st century, appealing to young adults who may be unaware of its harmful effects.

According to a new report by the American Lung Association of California, “An Emerging Deadly Trend – Waterpipe Tobacco Use,” hookah smoking is just as harmful as cigarette smoking and releases high levels of hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and metals.

The report also states that a waterpipe smoking session lasts approximately 45 minutes, while one cigarette only lasts five to ten minutes, estimating that one waterpipe session may be equal in risk to smoking 100 or more cigarettes.

High levels of nicotine and cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, can been found in the blood of a waterpipe smoker after just one 45 minute session. According to the Lung Association of California, nicotine concentration has been known to increase up to 250 percent after just one session, while cotinine increased up to 120 percent.

Katie Van Cleave, a coordinator from the American Lung Association of California, said young adults do not see any harm in hookah smoking because of first hand experience.

“The first time you smoke a cigarette, it burns your throat and you cough. With hookah you don’t get that effect,” Van Cleave said.

“People find that hookah just tastes really good because of all the different flavors.”

A local hookah bar owner, who declined to be identified, said he does not regard hookah smoking to be as harsh as cigarette smoking because hookah does not have the carcinogens that cigarettes do.

Steven Felix, a former CSUN student, smokes both cigarettes and hookah but admits that hookah doesn’t always seem as harmful.

“You don’t ever see advertisements about hookah smoking and its effects, but you see hundreds of advertisements telling you not to smoke cigarettes,” Felix said.

“The reason why most people don’t know about the negative effects of hookah is because you don’t ever see or hear anything about it. It’s like an underground phenomenon.”

Hookah is mainly utilized as a social activity, consisting of two or more individuals sharing the same mouth-piece, which is connected to the waterpipe.

The American Lung Association of California also states in its report that the sharing of mouth-pieces can spread diseases such as tuberculosis and viruses including hepatitis and herpes. The moist smoke, while being heated, increases chances for such diseases and infections to spread.

Waterpipe smoking first began in the Middle East, as early as the 15th century, eventually spreading throughout Europe, and to the U.S. According to the Lung Association, in the U.S. alone, approximately 200 to 300 hookah bars currently exist in more than two-thirds of the states.

“You pay only $15 per session and that cost can be split by three or four of your friends,” Felix said. “Any hookah bar is usually a kick back environment where you can just relax and talk.”

Waterpipe smokers can also choose from many different tobacco flavors such as chocolate, banana, strawberry and cream soda.

Adam Delmendo, a CTVA major, likes to smoke hookah occasionally for the social aspect.

“It’s not addicting like cigarette smoke, it’s also socially accepted,” Delmendo said with regard to the perceived soft consequences of hookah.

“It may not have as many chemicals as cigarettes, but it is smoke going through your lungs,” said Delmendo. “I definitely regard hookah smoke as being bad because any smoke that goes through your lungs is not good.”

Today, most hookah bars can be found near universities, mainly targeting college students ages 18 to 24. These young adults gather at hookah bars because it’s a cheap way to socialize and relax. Most hookah cafes also offer a food menu along with hookah, where individuals can enjoy food while they smoke.

As hookah bars increase across the United States, the American Lung Association of California strongly continues to promote the negative effects hookah smoking can produce among young adults who may not be aware of its consequences.