Some Ohio State students are no longer standing in the winter weather smoking cigarettes, but are instead off-campus, smoking shisha inside hookah lounges.
A National College Health Assessment conducted by the American College Health Association in April surveyed approximately 1,114 OSU students regarding their experiences with safety on campus, sexual abuse and tobacco use among other subjects.
Data showed that within the last 30 days of survey completion, 24 percent of students had smoked hookah at some point in their lives, with 5.6 percent having smoked within the last one to two days.
Of the same students, 17.9 percent had smoked cigarettes within the last 30 days, with 3.4 percent being in the last one to two days.
According to the National College Health Assessment data, hookah was found to be used most often by college students within the last 30 days compared to the other forms of tobacco surveyed, including cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, clove cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
Hookah, also referred to as shisha and narghile, is specially made tobacco that is smoked through a water pipe and comes in a variety of flavors, including mint, cherry, coconut and watermelon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Although hookah users might consider it less harmful than smoking cigarettes, using a hookah to smoke tobacco poses health risks to smokers and those exposed to the hookah smoke, the CDC website said.
According to the CDC website, a typical hookah session lasting one hour involves 200 puffs, which results in 90,000 milliliters of smoke being inhaled. Smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs, and results in 500 – 600 milliliters of smoke being inhaled.
According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, this means a hookah session delivers 1.7 times the nicotine, 6.5 times the carbon monoxide and 46.4 times the tar of a single cigarette.
On campus, hookah is prohibited as part of the tobacco-free policy instated in January.
OSU’s tobacco-free policy bans the use of tobacco chew, e-cigarettes, snuff and snus, a “spitless,” moist powder tobacco pouch, in all university buildings and on all university-owned properties, including parking lots, garages and outside areas.
University spokesman Gary Lewis said the university prefers to see the policy become successful with students’ compliance rather than through enforcement.
“Smoking on campus is not a criminal action,” Lewis said in an email. “However, it should be clear that there are university mechanisms through university human resources and student governance to address repeat offenders of the policy.”
Tobacco ban violations are not handled by the University Police, but instead by the Office of Human Resources.
According to research conducted by Dr. Brian Primack, an associate professor of medicine, pediatrics and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh, one out of three college students have smoked hookah. Of the students who have smoked, Primack found that 50 percent of them did not smoke cigarettes. Primack’s findings were published in the June 2012 issue of the journal “Nicotine and Tobacco Research.”
At OSU, the popularity of hookah smoking is supported by the number of tobacco shops located in the university district, including the Smoke Zone Smoke Shop on 13th Avenue across from the Ohio Union.
“We sell a lot more shisha flavor than actual hookah set-ups,” said Smoke Zone Smoke Shop employee Cameron Musgrave. “Smoking hookah personally gets me way too lightheaded and I’ve never been a fan, but you can tell students really like it.”
Musgrave works at The Smoke Zone Smoke Shop “almost every day” and said he sells at least five packs of shisha flavor and an electronic hookah every day that he works.
Another local tobacco store, Hookah Rush, is located on North High Street and sells hookah pipes ranging in price from $30 to $200. The store also sells a variety of tobacco flavors, said Syed Hasan, a fourth-year in human development and family science and a Hookah Rush employee.
“We have a variety of different brands and flavors to choose from,” Hasan said. “So customers usually will pick a bunch of smaller containers, like 50-gram containers ranging from $3 to $5, so they can try more flavors and create more unique mixes.”
Hasan began smoking hookah in high school and said he now smokes several times a day, often with friends.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an addiction, as I don’t develop the physical symptoms you would see in a cigarette addict,” he said. “I smoke mainly because I enjoy the aesthetic of smoking hookah, and the heavily built-on tradition rooting from the Middle East.”
Hasan said he acknowledges that smoking hookah and other forms of tobacco is harmful for the human body, but believes trying hookah once or twice will not hurt an individual in noticeable ways.
“It’s not (harmful) to the extent that it is currently being portrayed, so try it out before you completely bash it,” Hasan said.
Hasan said he uses a personal hookah pipe to smoke in his apartment. Other students prefer to spend time at local hookah lounges off campus.
“I smoke mainly at Midnight Hookah for the social aspect of it,” said Adel Dada, a sixth-year in industrial and systems engineering. “All my friends do it, so I usually tag along and we either play cards or catch up on what’s happening in our lives.”
Dada said he smokes several times a week, and has started to see it affect his health.
“It slows me down when I’m trying to work out,” he said. “It’s not so bad when it comes to lifting weights, but doing cardio can be really difficult to do even a full day after smoking.”
Dada said he thinks it might be time to acknowledge the dangers that come with hookah, and added that he is considering quitting because of the sluggishness he feels after smoking.