As hookah smoking becomes a bigger trend among college students, many are unaware of its harmful effects on health.
“Regardless of how you smoke tobacco, whether it is through a cigarette, cigar, or a hookah pipe, the effects are the same (because) tobacco is tobacco,” said Jesus Leon, a LVN at Northridge Medical Center Hospital stationed in the Cancer Center. “When you put tobacco in your body, there are harmful effects, (specifically) cancer.”
Studies show that hookah smoke contains the same cancer-causing substances as cigarettes.
Forty-five minutes of hookah smoking proved to be equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes, stated a study found by the American Cancer Society.
Because the hookah smoke contains nicotine, it is an additive and may lead to cigarette smoking in the future, the study stated.
“Basically when you smoke the tobacco, it’s diluted in water, so you’re inhaling (tobacco) in the medium of water,” said physician assistant Rian Jaffer. “The water doesn’t do anything to lessen the concentration of the tobacco, nicotine or any of the other chemicals.”
Jaffer’s husband, a pharmacist, agreed.
“Some people think since the tobacco is diluted in water, it almost filters or eliminates the substances, which is wrong because some of the chemicals dissolve in water,” said Dr. Ali Jaffer.
Many students are unaware of the severity of health risks hookah smoking may lead to.
“I knew it was bad for the lungs, but I didn’t know of any further health risks hookah can cause,” said senior Sandra Vasquez, a sociology major. “When you go to a hookah place, there are no visible signs that indicate the dangers of smoking hookah compared to when people go out and buy the hookah tobacco? they can read any health labels on the box.”
Despite the number of health risks, hookah smoking has been marketed as safer than cigarettes because the percent of tobacco in the product smoked is low.
A tub containing 250g of the hookah substance or Shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, listed the ingredients as: tobacco, honey, glycerin, flavor, 0.5 percent nicotine and 0 percent tar. The Surgeon General’s warning also appeared on the $8.99 tub and stated, “Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.”
Some students know about the unhealthy effects of smoking hookah, but do it anyways.
“I was aware of the harmful effects but I just didn’t care, and (at that time), I was a (cigarette) smoker, (which is) absolutely horrible, but hookah is just tobacco,” said junior psychology major Alexis Reich. “Since I was a cigarette smoker, whenever I’d do hookah, I wouldn’t really feel it because I was used to the whole feeling of tobacco.”
Reich, who has successfully quit smoking cigarettes, also quit hookah.
“I haven’t done hookah since I stopped smoking because I’m scared if I smoke anything it’ll screw me up,” Reich said. “You have to be an idiot if you didn’t know hookah was harmful (because) any smoke that goes through your body is harmful.”
Whether students are informed or not of the harmful effects of hookah smoking, many are still attracted to it.
“(Hookah) is enticing and appealing because it doesn’t smell like regular cigarettes that make people nauseous,” Rian Jaffer said. “There are so many flavors that taste like fruit, so people don’t think it’s bad for them but (hookah) is still (as) harmful as cigarettes if not more.”
At a tobacco supplier located on Lindley Street and Nordhoff Street, the Shisha tobacco comes in a variety of flavors from margarita and cosmopolitan to fruity ones such as honeydew melon, sweet red melon and coconut.
“I totally loved the strawberry-mango flavor,” Reich said.
Vasquez, who has smoked hookah about four times, said she liked the raspberry- cherry-vanilla flavor.
Hookah bars are springing up across the U.S., especially within close proximity to college campuses. There is one located less than a mile away from CSUN on Reseda Boulevard and Nordhoff Street.
“It’s the hip new thing?they started to open up hookah bars and shops all along Ventura Boulevard,” Reich said. “I liked going to them because it was a social thing, and the environment was usually lively and relaxing.”
Vasquez echoed Reich.
“Hookah places gather people to socialize,” Vasquez said. “It’s a way to interact with peers outside of daily routines in a relaxed setting.”
“Most of my friends are Middle Eastern, and hookah is part of their culture, so we would hang out at hookah bars a lot,” Reich said. “Hookah is almost like the new age alcohol ? it’s at every party I go to.”
“Overall, hookah smoking is negative and not beneficial to your health,” Ali Jaffer said.
Even if tobacco is filtered with something, for example the plastic filters on the end of some cigarettes and in this case, the water in hookah smoking, it is still harmful, he added.