Hookas, nargilahs, exotic water pipes are everywhere—cafes, homes, dorm rooms. It has become so ubiquitous that Hillel’s have joined the fray, offering “Hookah in the Sukkah.” (Every program title must rhythm apparently.)
Along with its growing hipness and popularity, most people assume that the hookah is “cleaner” than smoking a cig. I’ve heard, “they are more natural,” “The water filters the bad stuff,” and so on, since I was in college. Well a recently released Georgetown University study, however, “suggests that a 30- 60-minute hookah session can pose dramatic health hazards.”
Christopher Loffredo, director of the Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology program at Georgetown University Medical Center, who led the study, compares a typical water pipe session to inhaling a pack of cigarettes.
Blame in on Persians, on hippies, on potheads, whatever. The hookah’s commercialization, coupled with its popularity among college students has made many an unsuspecting, full-fledged nicotine fiend.
The myth that smoking hookah is less harmful than other forms of tobacco disproportionately affects college-aged women who fear the social stigma of lighting up a cigarette and opt to smoke a hookah instead, the study says. .
Some of the delightful chemicals found in water pipe smoke include nicotine, “tar”, carbon monoxide, chrysene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, anthracene and pyrene. One research paper concludes that “narghile smoke likely contains an abundance of several of the chemicals thought to be causal factors in the elevated incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and addiction in cigarette smokers.”
Jewish organizations that work with college students nationwide have instituted strict policies about drinking, both who drinks and how much if at all. So Hookah is an attractive thing to get students in the door. In fact a recent article promotes the use of a Hookah event as a great time and a great success!
Using a Hookah has even become a way to try to promote Israel! Forget Zionism, the Promised Land, or even the sexy Israeli soldiers. Hook them on Israel with a Hookah night with Israeli food, as is suggested on one organization’s program bank website.
So the fun of hookah might be at the expense of cancer, nicotine addiction, and second-hand smoke.
PS: And we all know that smoking around babies (or any kids for that matter) is bad for their health.