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Hookah smoking is new trend among teens

April 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is an alarming new trend in smoking among young people. It's not cigarettes but hookahs, also known as water pipes.

It has become increasingly popular, and it's more dangerous than many young people think. Near the University of California Riverside campus two lounges, less than a block from each other, have become the alternative social gathering spot.

Hanny Soliman is the owner of University Lounge and said he has seen his hookah business grow in popularity.

"It's a social event," said Soliman. "I think people gather here to smoke, chat, and listen to music. It's getting popular."

The Middle Eastern export offers exotic and flavor soaked tobacco. It also appeals to many people seeking an alternative to cigarettes.

"I would say it is less harmful than smoking a cigarette because of the fact it's going through a vaporization process," said college student Travis Brown. "Versus when you are smoking a cigarette it's just smoke going into your lungs."

But a study by the University of California San Diego said that the perception is concerning and misleading. Research showed smoking via hookah might be on the rise, especially in teens which view it as more socially acceptable and safer than a cigarette.

"Unfortunately that is not true," said Dr. Ricardo Whyt from Loma Linda. "Even though the smoke is somewhat cooler, they're still getting a number of carcinogens and harmful chemicals that make cigarette smoking dangerous."

And while hookah shops are growing in popularity among teenagers, shop owners said they are doing their due diligence to insure underage smoking doesn't happen in their shops.

"We card people," said Will Shehata from Mediterranean Palace. "You have to be 18 and over with a valid I.D. in order to get the hookah because it is considered tobacco."

In fact, the California Department of Public Health said smoking a hookah for just 45 minutes is equivalent to smoking 100 Cigarettes.

"They can say it is natural because of the actual filter from the hookah," said college student Cecilia Luna. "It's supposed to be better than the actual cigarette. They have the misconception, but I wouldn't try it."

Still many more young adults are trying it.