Many students on college campuses take to smoking hookah. It’s legal, cheap and a social activity for students to take part in with their friends. Some may even try to argue that smoking hookah is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, and less risky than smoking marijuana. However, studies show, neither are true.
Mary P. Martinasek, a professor in the department of Health Science and other researchers at UT conducted an on campus study in 2012 regarding hookah smoking. Out of over 900 students surveyed, she found that half the students admitted to having tried hookah, and one third reporting current hookah use (in the past 30 days).
“From the research that we conducted with surveys and interviews, it is apparent that the popularity is primarily the social aspect of smoking hookah. Students have stated that when they smoke hookah they are fixated around a pipe providing an environment that engages them in conversation and attending hookah bars allows them to meet people,” said Martinasek.
“A lot of the reason why people are so misinformed about the harmfulness of smoking hookah comes from the fact that people don’t truly understand what is in the flavored tobacco that is being smoked. It is such a social activity, and smokers don’t realize how long of a period of time they are smoking or how much they have smoked. They are still ingesting the harmful smoke and can become addicted to the nicotine in the tobacco,” said senior Advertising and Public Relations major, Keira Fox.
Also known as narghile and goza, a hookah is a type of water pipe in which special tobacco is heated and the smoke is passed through water to be inhaled through a rubber hose. Hookah smoke contains toxins including carbon monoxide, tar, heavy metals and other various chemicals extremely harmful to our health according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are currently 26 hookah lounges in Hillsborough County. Because hookah is most often used as a social activity, hookah lounges are places to gather with your friends in a comfortable environment with low lights and cozy couches to smoke together. It is important to keep in mind that these lounges are not regulated in terms of how much Carbon Monoxide is present in the room, making it a harmful environment to be breathing in for too long. There are currently no regulations as to how often the hookah bowls are to be cleaned. Without regular proper cleaning, the hookah bowls are susceptible to transfer germs.From the feedback researchers at the University of Tampa have received back, bowls may be cleaned with glass cleaner and the hoses with hot water. No responses have included bleach or other antibacterial cleansers.
The main premise behind the research is focused on the question: “is hookah a gateway drug?” Will it get kids smoking cigarettes, because of the Nicotine found in hookah? Some students claim there are some positive effects and reasons for smoking hookah, including dizziness, the buzz, a way to pass time, fun and a legal high. However, there are many negative affects as well. Of the students who have reported having tried hookah, many also report experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: coughing, headaches, shortness of breath and chest pains after smoking. Other effects include nicotine withdrawal, which can cause irritability, fatigue, headaches, insomnia and difficulty concentrating.
Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke because of the large volume of smoke inhaled in one smoking session, which can last much longer than a cigarette, according to the Mayo Clinic. The tobacco in a hookah no less toxic than the tobacco in a cigarette; the water in the hookah does not filter out the toxic ingredients in the tobacco smoke. Students should keep this in mind when making the decision to smoke or not to smoke.
“A lot of people think that, because it passes through water, they are only inhaling water vapor, so it is not bad for their health. It is most definitely smoke, and even if it is not inhaled, it can still cause throat and oral cancer, gum disease, tooth loss, as well as numerous other harmful effects,” said Fox.
Brianna Kwasnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org