Over the past decade, the news has erupted with stories discouraging smoking. Television stations air TRU commercials, which feature the shocking, real-life stories of victims of tobacco addiction, and health classes alongside parents continually preach the dangers of cigarettes.
The current generation of teenagers have heard anti-smoking and anti-tobacco messages since elementary school. My eleven year old brother easily list five or six negative effects of smoking because even in his small amount of exposure to anti-smoking messages, he recognizes that it is unhealthy.
For the most part, cigarettes have lost popularity due to negative publicity, health effects, and high cost. Hookah appeared as a replacement, and is gaining popularity among teenagers.
A somewhat new trend in the United States and among students at Leesville is smoking hookah. Also known as shisha, narghile, and goza, a hookah is a water pipe with a smoke chamber, a bowl, and a pipe with a hose. Specially made tobacco is heated, and the smoke passes through water before being inhaled through a mouthpiece.
Many people, particularly teenagers, are under the impression that smoking hookah is safe, but this is not the case. Jennifer O’Loughlin, a Professor of Preventative Medicine at the University of Montreal, recently conducted a study that shows that teenagers who smoke hookah are less likely to smoke cigarettes or try other drugs. These teenagers believe they are picking the “safe” alternative, and choosing a healthier option.
It is a current consensus among health professionals that a significant amount of carbon monoxide is produced from the charcoal used to heat the tobacco. In addition to direct inhalation, hookah bars and group smoking increases second-hand reception, and is usually house high concentrations of the toxic chemical. In addition to the carbon monoxide produced, the effects of other additives widely used in charcoals are unknown.
The growing popularity of hookah is a major concern for health advocates. The director of the Nevada Tobacco-Free Kids office, Elizabeth Caldwell, believes that anti-smoking groups are partly responsible for the growing popularity of hookah.
Though these groups have done their best to dissuade the use of cigarettes and inform minors that cigarettes are hazardous for health, many smokers simply switched from cigarettes to hookah, believing that it was safer and healthier.
In reality, one “session” of smoking hookah (estimated between 25 minutes to one hour long) is the nicotine and carcinogen equivalent of smoking one hundred cigarettes. Hookah has all of the negative side effects and cancer risks of cigarettes, but multiplied tenfold, because nothing negative is publicly broadcast about hookah.
Caldwell believes that the only way to inform teens is to change the way America informs students. Anti-smoking messages must be modified from “anti-cigarette” or “anti-marijuana” to “anti-tobacco.”