Students, university health officials discuss misconceptions about smoking hookah
By Kate Dopazo
Published: Monday, November 9, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 9, 2009
When Rajiv Ulpe, a public and community health master’s student, asked students to compare hookah to cigarettes Friday afternoon at a lecture on the campus, most attendees agreed hookah was a much healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.
“I don’t think you can get addicted to hookah,” Nick Patcella, a junior civil engineering major, said. “I think you can get addicted to the social aspect because it’s a fun activity, but not the hookah itself.”
“People think it’s a lot less lethal than cigarettes,” senior cell biology major Ray Gonzalez, added. “The water takes out more of the impurities.”
But Ulpe said these are all common myths associated with hookah — a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water — adding that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a typical hour-long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled in a single cigarette.
During the discussion, nine undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 22 were asked to discuss their attitudes toward hookah and what exactly they know about its effects.
“Hookah is more natural than cigarettes and you smoke hookah less than cigarettes,” Patcella said.
Ulpe and Public and Community Health professor Nancy Atkinson held the event to learn about students’ knowledge, attitudes and myths surrounding hookah use. The consensus of the group was that most students do not know the consequences of smoking hookah because it is not a prevalent discussion.
Throughout the event, Ulpe targeted the common myths surrounding the practice, asking students if they thought they were true. Many students said they thought because hookah smoke is filtered through water, it filters out harmful ingredients. They also said they thought smoking hookah is less addictive than smoking cigarettes.
According to a University Health Center fact sheet, however, these beliefs aren’t true: The water does not filter out cancer-causing chemicals, and hookah smoke can damage the lungs and heart just as much as cigarette smoke. Shisha, the moist and sticky tobacco smoked in hookah, contains nicotine and is just as addicting as cigarettes.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hookah smokers are at risk for the same kinds of diseases caused by cigarette smoking, such as lung cancer, stomach cancer and oral cancer.
Ulpe said students need to be informed to stay safe. He will be interviewing three experts in the field of cessation, policy and communication to obtain recommendations for reducing hookah use on the campus.
ga at umdbk dot com