Smoking hookah skyrockets in popularity

Hookah has been around for centuries, but there has been a recent growth in its popularity worldwide. This trend hasn’t avoided Harford County, as Bel Air is home to The Vape Lounge and Lotus Lounge Main St. Hookah.

According to an article by the University of Maryland, a hookah is a water pipe that is used to smoke something called shisha: tobacco soaked in honey or molasses and mixed with fruit flavors such as apple and coconut. Users smoke the flavored water vapor that is supposed to filter out all of tobacco’s dangerous chemicals.

“I have my own hookah stick and honestly I just like the taste,” one student who wished to remain anonymous said. “I’ve yet to see any side effects”

Many teenagers think that because hookah is flavored and is smoked through water vapor, that it offers no negative side effects and is less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes. However this is not true.

Traditional hookah contains tobacco and nicotine, just like cigarettes do. And just because water can act as a filter does not mean that it can filter out the countless cancer-causing chemicals from the tobacco used in hookah, according to the UMD article.

And while The Vape Lounge is a tobacco-free cafe and there are other tobacco-free ways to smoke hookah, such as hookah pens, they still might not be free of nicotine. According to a Center for Disease Control article, these “forms of electronic hookah smoking” turn a liquid mix of nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals into water vapor. The article also said that there is little health information known about these alternatives.

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes is dangerously addictive due to the amount of nicotine each one contains. It shouldn’t be surprising that hookah can be just as addictive, if not more so, than a regular cigarette.

In fact, some JC students have experienced hookah’s addictive qualities. “I’ve tried it a good amount of times and it can actually become really addicting,” a student who wanted to remain anonymous said.

I’ve tried it a good amount of times and it can actually become really addicting.”

— Anonymous student

According to the same UMD article, a 60-minute hookah session can expose the smoker to the same amount of nicotine and tar as a pack of cigarettes. Additionally, an article by the Center of Disease Control says that “a typical 1-hour-long smoking session involves 200 puffs, while an average cigarette is 20 puffs.”

We’ve all been to numerous assemblies that told of the hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals contained in tobacco and warned against forming a habit of smoking regularly. Yet, hookah exposes smokers to a higher amount of carcinogens than a regular cigarette. This can be attributed to the longer time spent smoking hookah and the deeper inhalation of the hookah’s smoke.

This means that not only does hookah contain the same amount of carcinogens as smoking cigarettes does, but also that smoking hookah increases levels of exposure to these chemicals. In addition to the harmful effects of the tobacco itself, sharing a hookah pipe can spread communicable diseases from sharing the mouthpiece, according to a Fox News article.

But if hookah isn’t good for you, why has it grown so popular? Another anonymous student offers an explanation. “[Although smoking hookah doesn’t get] you high as a kite or anything, it’s just another thing to try,” the student said.

Some students, like senior Emily Stasuk, question the popularity of smoking hookah. “I don’t really get why people do it if it doesn’t have an effect,” Stasuk said.

Bottom line is, hookah is not harmless. It can be just as addicting and dangerous as smoking cigarettes, and its tobacco-free versions have yet to be proven healthy.

Angela DeCarlo is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and