Sep 062012

Author: Kendall Greenwood

English: Malabar Hookahs in three different sizes

English: Malabar Hookahs in three different sizes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CSU senior Mike Vincent, 21, has been smoking hookah since he was 14 years old. He has learned what coals to use and how to pack the shisha for the best flavor. But he recently discovered a new hookah product: “hookah rocks.”

Steam stones, or “hookah rocks”, are tobacco-free mineral stones covered in a mixture of flavor and glycerin. Instead of smoke, the stones produce a flavored vapor.

“The first time I tried hookah rocks I was a little shocked because it was pure glycerin,” Vincent said. “I didn’t believe the vapor could come out of it.”

The stones act as a sponge that absorb and release the flavoring when heated. As a result, they can offer a different experience than shisha.

“(It) can be more flavorful and (has) very thick smoke,” Vincent said.

The manager of Smokey Monkey Pipes and Tobacco, Elizabeth Price, 26, has heard similar comments from her costumers. Smokey Monkey, located at 1232 West Elizabeth St., has been carrying steam stones for a year now.

“A lot of (customers) say they like it because of the flavor and the amount of smoke they get from it,” Price said.

The stones are also reusable. According to Price, the once smoked steam stones can go back in the packaging and reabsorb the remnant flavor mixture. In the long-run, steam stones come out cheaper than shisha: a 250-gram package of stones sells for $13 at Smokey Monkey whereas a 50-gram package of shisha sells for $5.

The amount of times the stones can be reused is also dependent on personal preference.

“With hookah rocks it is a two-time use because you can burn them and the top layer will be burned,” Vincent said. “But you can flip [them] over and pour the glycerin back over.”

Knowing the technical skills to making steam stones is important. For Vincent, the first time he used rocks he did not like them, but he quickly changed his mind on his second try.

“I found out it’s because of who was making it and packing it,” Vincent said. “(It’s important) how you put it into a bowl, the type of bowl you’re using, the process of it.”

The major difference between rocks and shisha is that there is no tobacco in the steam stone product. This removes the nicotine and makes the smoke less harsh.

“You would never get light-headed, never sick to your stomach, you could smoke it numerous times,” Vincent said. “You weren’t coughing (and) you could hold it in your lungs (to) do hookah tricks much easier. “

However, Gwen Sieving, a Health Educator at CSU, cautions the users to be aware of the health risks despite the lack of tobacco.

“(When you smoke) a lot of the droplets of saliva from everybody else can potentially still be in the hose,” Sieving said. “So what people need to think and make informed decisions about is disease transmission.”

Also, steam stones involve combustion.

“Anytime you combust something, like the coals, they give off their own set of toxins,” Sieving said.

These toxins could react with the stones to create dangerous chemicals in the vapor.

Steam stones are not offered at Narghile Nights Hookah Lounge, located at 621 South College Avenue. According to employee Avry Seih, 21, the staff tried them but did not like the quality.

Smokey Monkey offers six flavors of steam stones: mango, strawberry, peach, cherry, watermelon and orange.

After getting used to the stones, Vincent and his friends still choose to use them.

“It’s a difficult process,” said Vincent. “But as soon as you experiment with it and practice, it can come out really good.”

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