While hookah smoking is commonly believed to be natural and safer than smoking cigarettes, the Hartshorn Health Center on campus said Wednesday that it hopes to dispel these myths and raise awareness about the risks involved in the process.
Contrary to popular belief, smoking hookah has major health risks like any other tobacco.
In a one-hour hookah session, users consume about 100 to 200 times the smoke and about 70 times the nicotine as they do in one cigarette, according to both the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society.
“Natural does not mean it is healthy; dog poop is natural, but if you saw a child going to eat it, you would probably stop them,” said Gwen Sieving, Hartshorn Health Center Health educator.
Sieving said the fruit flavoring in hookah smoking also creates the misconception that it is not harmful.
“I had no idea that hookah was bad for you when it was first big,” said Madison Holland, CSU senior liberal arts major. “I think that because the tobacco is flavored and the smoke is filtered before you inhale it, people don’t realize how bad it is for you.”
Hookah smoke is not, contrary to popular belief, filtered; it still has high levels of toxic components including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, tar, nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to the human body.
These toxins are known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases, making them equivalent to the risks of cigarettes, according to the American Cancer Society. The society has said it believes that hookah smoking is not a safe alternative and has serious potential health risks.
“(Hartshorn’s) main concern is not that students shouldn’t smoke hookah or tobacco, but that they should know the risks involved with it, since there are so many incorrect beliefs,” Sieving said. ” We just want students to know the truth about it so they can make educated decisions.”
Hookah smoking originally started in Turkey and the Middle East about 500 years ago as a social event and only recently spread to the U.S., having become popular in the last decade.
“Hookah smoking should be treated as a serious health issue just as cigarettes and other tobacco, because there is not such thing as safe tobacco smoking,” said Amanda Mozer from Tobacco Free Larimer County. “All tobacco is a health risk.”
According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment tobacco is one of the top causes of death in Colorado and causes more deaths then AIDS, fires, car accidents, heroin, homicide, suicide, cocaine and alcohol related deaths combined.
In the state of Colorado, tobacco related deaths add up to around 4,300 people per year. This number includes all types of tobacco including cigarettes, hookah and other tobacco products.
“It is important to realize that tobacco products are not regulated. We do not really know what is in products unless we take them into a lab setting,” Sieving said. “We have to be very discerning as to what is in things.”
Algiers Hookah and Shisah and Narghile Nights, two prominent hookah smoking facilities in Fort Collins, said they had no comment.
Staff writer Jessica Cline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.