By Joshua Mitchell
Walking down the street after school is supposed to be one of the safest things to do. However while walking down the street one day, I saw something different.
There was group of kids from my school right by this shop that had people smoking hookah on the side of it. At the time, I had no idea what hookah is and decided to ask the students from the school why they were surrounding this man who was smoking a weirdly-shaped water pipe. They told me that they were trying to get the man to share his hookah with them. I told them that that wouldn’t be a smart idea for either of them. The first thing they said to me was that hookah doesn’t have any bad effects – it just looks cool and smells good.
Looking back at that day, I could be nothing but upset because I didn’t know anything about hookah. I now know that the terrible effects are just as bad – if not worse – than cigarettes.
When seeing commercials by the Truth Initiative, I was extremely happy and proud that my generation could be the first tobacco-free one. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about how teenagers would think something is “lame” or not “cool” anymore because older people would do it. Instead, they would do something that is the trend now and not know the consequences of it.
While at a recent Truth Initiative meeting, I had the opportunity to ask the panelists a question about hookah and how kids today view it.
“At a young age, kids learn that cigarettes are bad, so tobacco companies are coming up with alternative ways to use tobacco,” said psychiatrist Jill Williams, a professor and director of the division of addiction psychiatry at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Things like flavors, new products and hookah are prime examples. It is a gateway to try and get people smoking in a subversive way.”
What she said is completely true and hookah is now the new trend. More and more teenagers are doing it to join in like their peers.
A typical one-hour hookah smoking session can result in the inhalation of the amount of smoke produced by 100 or more cigarettes, according to the World Health Organization.
Hookah users may also have a greater risk of lung cancer and respiratory illness, periodontal disease, and coronary artery disease, according to the Truth Initiative. In 2012, only about half of high school students and about a third of middle school students were aware of the effects of hookah, according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. About 7% of teens have used hookah in the past 30 days, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
I think this is unacceptable. Students now should know about all the harmful effects of tobacco corporations’ attempts to be “hip” and to get teens “hooked” into the new wave of tobacco use.