Teenage cigarette use declines, while hookah use rises

With the constant pressure society places on the teenager regarding looks, grades and popularity, the pressure of fitting in can sometimes be overwhelming. Sometimes, it can become so large, that it pushes teens to make bad decisions. In early November of 2013, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released numbers regarding the amount of high school students’ tobacco usage.  Since last year, the number of teenagers who smoke Hookah increased from 4.1 percent to 5.4 percent.

According to CDC, “Hookahs are used to smoke specially-made tobacco that come in flavors. The tobacco is placed in a bowl, heated by charcoal and breathed in through a mouthpiece that is usually shared between multiple smokers.”

Many students believe that Hookah is not as harmful to the body as cigarettes, which is completely false. The CDC explains how hookah tobacco does have nicotine, and is “at least as toxic as the smoke of a cigarette. Hookah smokers may even take in more smoke than with cigarettes due to the deep inhalation, frequent puffing and greater amount of time spent smoking. In fact, a one hour hookah session involves inhaling between 100-200 times the volumes of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.”

An anonymous sophomore believes that the use of hookah has increased because, “it’s become more of a social thing. Everyone wants to learn how to make smoke rings and it is so much easier to get than alcohol or cigarettes.”

While there are various hookah bars around Tampa, specifically Ybor, there are also souvenir stores such as Spencer’s and others who sell Hookah pens, becoming more accessible for teens to purchase.

When minors smoke hookah, it becomes even more dangerous for their lungs that are still developing. They are exposed to carbon monoxide which comes from the heated coals. They become prone to diseases such as oral and lung cancer.

Even with all the health and legal warnings, numbers show that the number of teenagers who consume Hookah keeps growing by the year. While the number of teenage cigarette smokers declined from 15.8 percent to 14 percent as of last year, hookah usage is rising. The CDC released a Fact Sheet with the comparison of hookah use over cigarettes, and hookah is becoming more popular among teens.

Some teens think of it as a social experience and do not see beyond the high risks of diseases. Still, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the accessibility minors have to Hookah. It is important to inform teens of the dangers of smoking it and that it is just as damaging as smoking a cigarette.