A hazy college fad

Aug 242011
Authors: Robert Lopez

Beams of light drifted through Algier’s Hookah House, cutting through clouds of smoke on a group of people smoking the flavored tobacco. The use of this tobacco, or shisha use, has been on the rise for the past couple of years, partcularly on college campuses, despite its health risks.

“It’s a fashionable thing to do, in addition to already a big base of fans,” said Algier’s manager Evan Miller.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shisha is a type of tobacco that is soaked in molasses. The shisha is then packed into a bowl, covered with foil, placed on top of the hookah and heated using coals. The smoke then passes through water and is inhaled through a pipe by the user.

There is a social aspect to smoking hookah that can be related to being at a coffee shop hanging with friends.

“While smoking, you meet people from all different walks of life,” said long time regular Jeremiah Scott.

The experience of smoking doesn’t just extend to the patrons either.

“The staff has a huge focus on the customer experience. The customers talk and laugh with the staff. Algiers is a quieter place where you can just talk with your friends,” Miller said.

Although hookah is popular, there are still health risks associated with smoking it.

“Companies are hitting a crowd at a vulnerable age,” said tobacco health advisor Gwen Sieving.

Sieving said she is also concerned that students just don’t have enough information about smoking hookah to make a wise decision about it.

“Smoke is smoke, is smoke,” Sieving said.
While she is not suggesting people quit smoking completely, she did provide some recommendations to help protect students, such as not sharing mouthpieces. She also encouraged students to buy their own hookah to make sure it’s cleaned thoroughly.

“It’s all about taking lower risks, by being safe and smart,” she said.

Algiers does offer student alternatives to smoking the regular tobacco. They offer a cane sugar supplement to the tobacco.

“The cane sugar supplement simulates the hookah experience while minimizing the risk,” Miller said, adding that is only available upon request at Algeir’s.

Collegian writer Robert Lopez can be reached at news@collegian.com

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