Hooked on Hookahs
Parents of college students: Next time you check in on your kid, here's a question to add to your repertoire. After you've asked how her money's holding out, is she getting enough sleep, and how's that psych paper coming along, you might want to inquire "So, honey, have you by any chance taken up smoking with a hookah?"
Apparently lots of college students are using hookahs, or waterpipes, to smoke tobacco. A study in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that of 744 Virginia Commonwealth University students surveyed, 43 percent had used a hookah to smoke tobacco during the past year, and 20 percent had done so during the past month.
Hookah use entails heating tobacco (often sweetened and flavored) with charcoal; the smoke passes through a water chamber that cools it down before the smoker inhales. Apparently it's a social activity: There are hookah cafes near college campuses, and students share hookahs at parties.
The study suggests that misconceptions about the health risks associated with hookah use are rampant among users and non-users alike. Of those who reported using a hookah within the past month, 44 percent thought hookahs were safer than cigarettes, and 58 percent said there was no likelihood of becoming addicted to tobacco if you're using a hookah. Even the kids who didn't use hookahs were way off on this: Almost 60 percent called hookahs safer than cigarettes, and nearly 42 percent said the likelihood of addiction was nil.
Um, wrong and wrong. Both hookah and cigarette smoke contain tar and carbon monoxide, both of which can cause lung cancer and other diseases, and nicotine, the stuff you get addicted to. Hookah use might even be more dangerous, according to the study, because users tend to smoke them longer and take more puffs from them than they would from a cigarette, leading to their inhaling as much as 100 times more smoke.
Here's what a Mayo Clinic pulmonologist has to say on the risks of hookah smoking.
The study's researchers, from Virginia Commonwealth University, suggest that teens and young adults need to be hit over the head (my wording, not theirs) with the message that hookah smoking is bad for their health. Until some public agency can get moving on that, maybe we parents should get the ball rolling.
Think you'll sound silly inquiring about hookahs? Fine. Just send your kid a link to this blog.
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