Misconceptions about hookah

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By Tom Hanlon and Katherine Wang

It is common knowledge that smoking cigarettes is detrimental to one’s health, but some methods such as hookah are thought by many youth not to be harmful.
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke special tobacco that can come in many different flavors. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking including oral cancer, lung cancer and decreased fertility.
Hookah use originated in ancient Persia and India, but is now gaining popularity with teenagers in many European countries and in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hookah use is increasing among youth and college students.
Because of this trend, organizations such as the multinational youth-led Evolvement movement are undertaking campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use through cigarettes and hookah.
Members of Evolvement need to be part of a participating high school and are required to go through training with an Evolvement coordinator.
Evolvement New Mexico has started a campaign called Clear the Haze. This campaign specifically targets young people to educate them that hookah smoking is as dangerous as cigarette smoking.
According to Chris Romero, a campaign manager for Evolvement New Mexico, teenage hookah smoking is increasing. “Youth hookah use rates are on the rise and there is a lack of awareness about the dangers of hookah smoking, which is commonly seen as being safe or less harmful than cigarettes,” Romero said.
The ALA says that hookah smoking is especially popular among urban youth, young professionals and college students.
Increasing the accessibility of these inexpensive water pipes, small cafés and clubs sometimes rent hookahs to groups capitalizing on the fact that hookahs are a social form of smoking.
The ALA also states that while smoking an average cigarette involves around 20 puffs, an hour long hookah session produces up to 200. They went on to say that hookah smoking is purportedly less irritating that cigarette smoking leading to longer smoking periods and deeper inhalations.
Evolvement New Mexico members hold events to educate users about these facts. They are currently planning their next event. “Evolvement members gain skills like public speaking, community service and leadership,” Romero said.
Los Alamos currently has 30 active members. Evolvement New Mexico is on Facebook and Twitter @ClearTheHazeNM.