Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: The Truth about Hookah

Let me begin by saying that I'm sure this will be the only Weekly Wrap-Up that mentions hookah smoking.

Photo courtesy: Rebecca Poole Images's the story: Last weekend I was relaxing at the coffee shop where my daughter's band sometimes plays and previews new material. There were a lot of people there who had come specifically to see DANYA, including my niece who, as the latest member of Nashville's music paparazzi, came armed with her hot pink Barbie camera! Friday is always open mic night at this place and it's a magnet for young people, so it is a pretty "happening" nightspot. It is obvious if you are over 30 that you must be someone's parent, or else it must be your first time there and you won't be coming back now that you know it is really not your crowd...LOL

DANYA is (L -R): Danya Powell, Mat Poole, Asa Wiggins, Matt Morris
(Photo courtesy: Rebecca Poole Images)

So my sister-in-law, Karla, had invited a friend, and they had both brought their little girls (8-year-olds) who had seen the band before and are big fans. :) With our smoothies, milkshakes, and coffees ordered, we were chatting amiably when someone said, "What is that smell?" And then a server strolled past our table to the one next to us with a hookah pipe in hand. (It looks just like a bong.) And one of the moms said, "And what is that?"

Photo courtesy:
Just so you know, seating is at a premium in this place, so the table next to us was literally a couple of inches away. Well, good grief--I was really embarrassed and not prepared for this. Hookahs are a recent addition to this coffee place, and I had not really noticed it before because they were smoking outside. With the colder weather, however, they were smoking hookah inside. I had not mentioned to Karla that it would be something she would have to deal with and be prepared for because I was not aware. Anything pretty and shiny immediately attracts the attention of 8-year-old girls (ok, yeah, any-year-old girls!), and we were doing some fancy footwork to explain to the kids that it was wrong, harmful, etc., while I was also explaining to the moms just what it was. Since I've just learned about hookahs recently, let me fill you in with this info from

What is a Hookah and Shisha?

  • A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. The tobacco is heated in the bowl at the top of the hookah and the smoke is filtered through the water in the base of the hookah.
  • Alternate names for hookahs include: water pipe, goza, hubble-bubble, borry, arhile, and narghile.
  • Shisha is the tobacco smoked in a hookah. It is a very moist and sticky tobacco that has been soaked in honey or molasses.
  • There are a variety of shisha flavors including apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, and strawberry.
It's weird, it's different, it's sort of mystical. For teenagers, it definitely has the rebellious "cool factor" that many are seeking. I shouldn't have been too surprised when I saw some of my former writing students (homeschoolers) over in the corner of this establishment puffing away. And here's what the kids are saying about it:
It's not really smoking.
It's a water-base, and way more filtered than regular cigarettes, so it's not unhealthy.
It's okay--it's not addictive.
Don't worry, there's no secondhand smoke effects.
Well, I'm not sure where they got their information, er, misinformation, but I came home and started doing some research. All of the above statements, er, misstatements, are refuted with cold hard facts at And here's more info from that site:

Quick Facts
Compared to a single cigarette, hookah smoke is known to contain:
  • Higher levels of arsenic, lead, and nickel1
  • 36 times more tar
  • 15 times more carbon monoxide
Smoking a hookah requires taking longer and harder drags, increasing levels of inhaled nicotine and carcinogens in the lungs. The longer the hookah session, the more nicotine and toxins one takes in.
A 45 to 60 minute hookah session exposes the smoker to approximately the same amount of tar and nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.
Sharing mouthpieces (gross!) without washing them can increase the risk of spreading colds, flu,and infections—even oral herpes.
Health risks of smoking hookahs include cancer, heart disease, lung damage, and dental disease.
Do not think that if you are just visiting a hookah bar, that you are in the clear. There are still high levels of damaging secondhand smoke to all who are present.

Don't be misled and don't be uninformed about what is making headway and becoming trendy with our teens. Arm yourself with the facts, because evidently, hookah has some pretty good word-of-mouth going for it with the rumors abounding of it not being as "bad" as cigarettes.

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Jenifer said...

Thanks for the info Rebecca! Never heard of it but glad i know now! Hope you're having a great week!

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

Thanks, Jenifer!

schmobes said...

Thanks for doing some research! I haven't heard that hookah is big around here, but it is good to be aware it is out there.

Kelly Combs said...

Thanks for the information. I hate that as a mom we have to be know this stuff, yet it is SO important we are armed. Thanks.

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

Yes, it's more important now than ever! Thanks for reading! :)

Ellen said...

I hadn't heard about this trend either (although I've read about hookahs somewhere -- just not in contemporary times!), so I was glad to get the info you provided. Thanks!

Bobbi said...

Thanks so much for this. I've known that there are some popular hooka bars near the college. Even some of the younger guys my husband works with go there and, yes, say it's safer. Your information is much appreciated as I keep an eye on this trend.

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