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Hookah: A drug gone un-warned
Ever since I was a child, my parents warned me about the dangers of drugs and constantly persuaded, no, commanded me not to use them. They usually just spoke to me about alcohol and cigarettes, but I knew that there were other, much more horrifying drugs out there, and I knew to stay away from those as well.
As I grew older and entered into high school, my parents eventually mentioned these other, much more fatal drugs to me. Both of my parents lived through the sixties and were fully aware of what teenagers did with drugs. They told me what could happen to me if I started using now -- that all my hopes and dreams could vanish in a single instant.
This reassurance from my parents that drugs were bad has led me to lead a drug free life. I have never once taken a puff from anything puffable, a snort from anything snortable, or a drink from anything drinkable. I know that snorting cocaine will rot my sinuses out. I know that marijuana will turn me into a vegetable. I know that alcohol will chew up my liver. And I know that all of those things, including the dozens of others that I haven’t mentioned, can all kill me. I know all of this because my parents talked to me about it.
There is one drug, however, that my parents didn’t ever speak to me about. This is hookah. Hookah is a flavored tobacco that is smoked through a hose connected a device called a bong. When the hookah is placed in the bond and lit, the smoke that emanates from it travels through the water that the bong is filled with, through the hose, and into the smoker’s mouth and lungs. Smoking hookah is legal and many people, especially those in high school and college, love to indulge in it.
Even though my parents never spoke to me about hookah, I have never smoked it. As I said before, I lead a clean life and any sort of drug, no matter its legality or form, appalls me. Thus, it appalls me to see teens my age, my friends even, who are fully aware of the dangers of drugs and detest them to their fullest, smoke hookah.
Some teens argue that they smoke hookah because it is safe, or at least safer than smoking cigarettes or marijuana. Unfortunately, they are wrong; smoking hookah is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.
According to the article “Dangers of hookah smoking” posted by Harvard Health Publications, “Researchers have found that hookah smokers inhale more often and for longer periods than typical cigarette smokers. Scientists estimate that by puffing longer and in greater volume, a water pipe smoker inhales the equivalent of 100 cigarettes or more during a single water pipe session.”
One-hundred cigarettes. For the teens I know that cringe at the thought of smoking even one Marlboro, this should come as a slap in the face. As educated beings in the twenty-first century, most teens know the harmful effects of cigarette smoke upon the smoker and the surrounding bystanders. Prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke can lead to emphysema and other lung diseases, so why would teens (or anyone, for that matter) willingly inhale hookah smoke which is 100 times worse than the smoke from a single cigarette?
Along with the smoke, when teens inhale hookah from a bong, they are also inhaling the addicting chemical called nicotine, which is more commonly associated with cigarettes. Since the hookah smoke passes through the water that fills the bong, many smokers think that the nicotine and other harmful chemicals of the hookah are filtered out through the process. They have been deceived.
Steven J. Gallegos, the tobacco prevention and control coordinator of the American Lung Association of California, said in an articled titled “Familiar smoking dangers found in hookah use” published by UCLA’s Daily Bruin, “…The water is nothing more than a conduit between the tobacco and the mouth -- you’re still getting the same poisons from the tobacco and smoke.”
By smoking hookah, some users are unaware that they are inhaling nicotine. Because of this, if they smoke it in excess, they have the potential of becoming nicotine addicts.
“Scientists are primarily concerned that the social appeal and misconceptions of hookah smoking will lead to a greater number of people becoming addicted to nicotine and that hookah users may eventually become cigarette smokers,” stated “Familiar smoking dangers found in hookah use.” It looks as if the teens I know who loathe the thought of putting their lips to a cigarette may actually succumb to their worst fear if they don’t kick the habit of smoking hookah now.
The other main reason why teens are fond of smoking hookah is because it is legal for persons 18 or older, at least in California. However, cigarettes are legal for persons 18 or over to smoke as well. So why choose hookah over cigarettes if it is just as legal and just as lethal as cigarettes?
The answer is because hookah is more socially acceptable. In today’s world, we see smoking cigarettes becoming a banned practice everywhere from the beaches to restaurants -- it seems as if the only refuge for a cigarette smoker these days is in their own home. Hookah, however, according to a pamphlet by California’s Clean Air Project, is only banned in workplaces. If a person wants to smoke it, they can go anywhere else they want. Bars have even been set up with the sole purpose of smoking hookah -- you don’t see too much of that in cigarette-ville.
Due to the social acceptability of hookah, teens are drawn to smoking it more than they are to smoking cigarettes. They figure if they smoke cigarettes, their parents will get mad, their friends will shun them, and eventually, like every other drug their parents have warned them about, they’ll die. If they smoke hookah however, their friends will think they are cool and most likely join in with them, they won’t die because they do not know the dangers of hookah smoking, and if they don’t tell their parents, well, they’ll never know nothing is askew.
For example, if Jimmy’s parents ask, “Jimmy? Why does your breath smell like apples?” Jimmy can respond, “Because Mike gave me some apple-flavored gum.” The issue of flavored hookah tobacco never comes to mom and dad’s mind.
One thing I see many of my friends who smoke hookah doing is taking photos of themselves while they are at a hookah bar smoking, and then post them to their Myspace pages. When I discover this, I see beautiful, intelligent girls with all the potential in the world mortally wounding their possibilities of being accepted into Harvard or being hired as a fashion photographer for Vogue. Posting self-incriminating photos like that on Myspace can cost any person their future career or acceptance letter; it’s a well known fact mentioned to outgoing high school seniors over and over again before they apply to colleges.
Also when I see these girls posting pictures of themselves smoking hookah on Myspace, I see them turning into unattractive slobs.
For all my life I have viewed smoking as being unattractive. Even when I see a beautiful woman smoking, I consider her to be unattractive. I know a lot of men who would never date a woman who smokes as well. This brings a question to mind whenever I see a photo of a friend smoking: does she think smoking makes her attractive? I hope she realizes that it doesn’t, for having grey smoke drifting from her nostrils and a glazed “I’m higher than a kite” look in her eyes really doesn’t scream class or beauty.
The same goes with all the teenage boys I see posting photos of their smoking selves. While they may be thinking “I’m so totally cool right now,” I’m thinking “You’re so totally feeding the stereotype that all men are pigs right now.”
Whether teens smoke hookah because they think it’s safe, legal, or more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes, they are making a poor decision. Smoking hookah is just as legal and just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, and even if they may think they look cool while doing it, they look like big pea brains to everyone else.
Teens need to think before they decide to smoke hookah. And parents should start talking to them about its dangers. After all, if they care enough about their kids to go over some of the drugs out there in life, they may as well go over them al; skipping over a drug, even one as acceptable as hookah, is not worth the risk of losing a child to addictive behaviors or even the injustices of society.