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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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 33 comments. Post your own now!

ajmarcum said...
Apr. 25, 2012 at 8:28 am
well this mite be true but there is non nicotine tobacco hookah that basically uu just smokin water vapor nn its better/ healthier then the nicotine one....=) i no i smoke hookah....
kuntpuncha said...
Dec. 20, 2011 at 1:53 am
the part about a hookah session being the equlivent of 100 cigarettes is completly bogus. yes there is the potential to consume the smoke "volume"(volume is neglable unless tempture and pressure are also notted, source; gas laws of chemistry) of 100 cigarettes, but to do so would require constant inhalation of hookah smoke and would result in death by lack of oxygen to the brain. i have done the math my self , the amount of nicotein in shisha can vary form the same percent by mass of nicotein to... (more »)
Nate said...
Oct. 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm
Haha!  Whoops. I meant "Thirdly" and then "Lastly".  Proof reading is hard in these teeny tiny comment windows!
Nate said...
Oct. 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm

This article is misinformed, naive, and self righteous.  First of all, the author can't even get the basic terminology correct, so I wouldn't expect any of her "research" to hold much weight either.  Shisha is the smoked tobacco, not hookah.  The hookah is the vessel from which the shisha is smoked.  And a hookah is not a bong, sweetheart.  A bong is for smoking pot and has different physical characteristics than a hookah.  This is a poor attempt at demonization ... (more »)

hookahking said...
Sept. 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm
NO. no. no. hookah smoking is 100 times better than cigarettes. cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, and burns at 800 degress which is what causes tar build up in lungs. cigarettes also contain high amounts of nicotine. hookah tobacco aka shisha has 0%tar because it burns at 300 degrees which is not hot enough for tar to become present. shisha also had .05grams of nicotine compared to levels WAYYYY larger than that in cigarettes, shisha is all natural and does not contain the chemicals tha... (more »)
shootemupy2k said...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 6:54 am
First of all, I'm unclear as to whether this article is intended as an encouragement to parents to talk more to their children about the dangers of addiction or a call for prohibition.  If it is the first then I agree with you in that it is the parent's responsability to educate their children about such things.  If however, your goal is prohibition of such things, you come across as ignorant and puritanical.  For most young people, it has been my experience that they are much bet... (more »)
SydVicious said...
Dec. 15, 2008 at 2:42 am
totally agree with Michael; I was really confused when I started reading because the terms were mixed-up. other than that, I think it was pretty informative and easy to relate to considering so many of us have seen similar things happen to other people. I admire your willingness to stand up against drugs and challenge the morals of your peers.
Auntie Sue said...
Dec. 2, 2008 at 9:17 pm
Great article Rachel! So true - many parents think hookah pipes are safe. A very good friend's son smoked them in high school and said it is just "flavored tabacco" and causes no harm or addiction. He is in college now and addicted to cigarette smoking -very sad!
Nate replied...
Oct. 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm
What about the millions of cigarette smokers who have never smoked hookah?  I don't see this one instance as definitive proof of cause and effect.  I love hookah but can't smell the taste or smell of cigarettes.  It really is apples to oranges.
Alex replied...
Feb. 6, 2013 at 6:30 am
Ahh, the good ol' "gateway drug" fallacy.

I suppose that drinking milk led me to the consumtion of alcohol, right? Eating cheese led me to cheetos. Riding a bike led me to driving a car. Right? That's how things work, right? Wrong.

Your son's decision to pick up the nasty habit of cigarette smoking was his own poor decision, and none of his previous indulgences led him towards it. I too used to be a cigarette smoker, but I have since quit after I s... (more »)
Michael P said...
Dec. 5, 2008 at 10:19 pm
hey i think your going the right way with this and of course you mean well because you always do. dont have all your facts right, one of the first that you got wrong is the equipment itself. its called a hookah pipe a bong is a completley different tool used for smoking a much different thing. another is that sheesha(the tobacco smoked from a hookah) doesnt scent your breath. your artical is good but the lack of sure fact makes it sound like your "blowing smoke" ;)
Nick said...
Jan. 28, 2015 at 12:47 am
The first two pages of this may just be the stupidest thing I've ever read.
Nick replied...
Jan. 28, 2015 at 12:51 am
I apologize, I should have finished the article before posting... The entire thing is ignorant and asinine. I have never seen so much misinformation in one place.
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