Aug 302005
 
Authors: Margaret Canty

Sweet smoke rises from a group of giggling students huddled around a hookah. This international social trend has gained popularity among college students as a safer and more exotic alternative to smoking cigarettes.

Hookahs are large pipes originally smoked during prayer in India. They are set up with a base filled with water, connected to a hose and topped with a bowl packed with shisha, a sticky, molasses-based tobacco with a sweet flavor.

John Adams, from the smoking specialty store High Country, said hookahs have recently been gaining popularity, particularly among the 18-to-25-year-old age group.

"There are so many types of people who buy hookahs," Adams said. "We have a lot of repeat customers. Everyone is really liking them."

CSU students are taking advantage of the hookah craze.

"I am buying a hookah tonight," said Brandon Hale , a freshman business major. "It helped me meet everyone on my floor, and it's a legal way to relax."

Residence Hall Assistant Chris Lindstrom, a junior history education major, said he has no problem with his residents smoking out of a hookah, as long as they are not smoking inside the halls.

"Hookah does not have as bad a connotation as cigarettes," Lindstrom said. "Cigarettes are associated with cancer, but hookahs aren't, at least in people's minds. They're very social."

Although smoking shisha out of a hookah is perfectly legal on and off campus, Adams speculates hookahs are being used for other things as well.

"Hookahs make it easier to smoke (marijuana) in the dorms," he said.

Adams is not the only one aware of this. CSU Police Department Sergeant Reed Beery said although hookahs are legal if used to smoke tobacco products, they will take precautions to make sure that is all students are smoking.

"Generally we'll get a call that kids are using one (hookah), and we'll swing by and see if we can smell marijuana or see residue. If they are, they are subject to the marijuana laws," Beery said . "If not, we'll be on our way."

Adams said the price of a hookah ranges from $30 to $300 depending on the type. The cheaper ones are usually brass and have only one hose, whereas the most expensive are glass and can have intricate patterns and multiple hoses.

"I bought a hookah for college because my friends and I got hooked on the hookah this summer," said Sam Krey, freshman open option major. "It's smoother and easier to smoke then other things. It's just the hook."

Although it is still smoking, some health-conscience smokers choose to smoke from a hookah rather then cigarettes because it is considered less damaging to the lungs. According to HookahCompany.com, shisha generally has .5 percent nicotine and no tar, whereas most cigarettes have 2 percent nicotine and 16 milligrams of tar.

Another enticing aspect of shisha smoking for some is the wide variety of flavors, ranging from coffee to rose to melon and strawberry, costing around $5 a container, Adams said.

For those who do not wish to purchase one, but are tempted to try smoking one, hookah bars are located all over Colorado, but Fort Collins does not have one.

"There should be a hookah bar in Fort Collins," said Christy Oliver, a freshman business major. "They'd make a ton of money."

The hookah trend shows few signs of letting up.

"Hookah is a bonding experience," said Dan Kramer, a freshman health and exercise science major. "It brings the hall together. It's a great ice breaker."

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