Hookah, a water pipe used for smoking Shisha, which is an aromatic blend of tobacco, molasses and fruit, has been very popular for many years in Middle Eastern countries. But in recent years it has become the “in” thing in the U.S. for young adults between the ages of 18 to 24. So, why is this becoming a problem?Getting Hooked
Often hookah is first introduced to these youths at a campus party or a hookah lounge. It has become known as the “social” thing to do with others. In fact, it’s becoming such a trend that researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine are reporting a rapid rise
in use amongst young adults, especially those in the state of California.
Many times these young adults think that smoking hookah is harmless, which in fact is the exact opposite of the truth. Smoking hookah is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes
. . . if not more
harmful. These young adults have a misguided belief that it is less dangerous due to the fact that the tobacco is filtered through water. However, a hookah session can last up to an hour, and, according to the World Health Organization, this can be equal to smoking approximately 100 cigarettes.
Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, associate professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in UCSD Department of Family and Preventative Medicine, states that although cigarette smoking is banned indoors
throughout the state of California, hookah is allowed to be smoked in designated areas. This may account for one reason why there is such an increase in its use. Al-Delaimy suggests that allowing hookah to be smoked indoors gives these young adults the impression that it is a healthy “alternative” to smoking. “This rise is particularly alarming because it's happening in California, a state that leads the nation in tobacco control. While cigarette smoking has decreased nationwide and in California, reports of ever using hookah have increased, especially among adolescent and young adults.” Al-Delaimy states.
Data conducted from the UCSD research team show that from 2005 to 2008 hookah use among California young adults increased by more than 40 percent, with 24.5 percent being men and 10 percent being women. And, the research team found that non-Hispanic Caucasians, with some education, smoked most. This is opposite of cigarettes, where more educated individuals are less likely to smoke.
As hookah lounges are becoming much more prevalent throughout the states, Al-Delaimy suggests and urges lawmakers to ban allowing hookah to be smoked in lounges. "More specific studies are warranted but we urge policymakers to consider laws that would ban hookah lounges, thus eliminating the implication that hookah smoking is safer and more socially acceptable than cigarette smoking," said Al-Delaimy.
Policymakers need to address this as an urgent concern and realize that it is a rapidly growing epidemic among young adults. As the newest front on the war against tobacco
, its importance must be recognized sooner than later . . . for the sake of generations to come.