Age-old smoking trend creates a hookah of a good time

By Amanda Thorogood

Talk about vintage. The latest fad at the University dates back nearly a millennium.

As the weather gets warmer and students begin to emerge from their residence hall rooms, they have been seen smoking shisha out of hookahs on a more frequent basis. To decode: a hookah looks similar to a genie bottle and has one or more hoses extending from it, and shisha is the flavored tobacco that is smoked from it.

“You put tobacco into the head [top] of the hookah, cover it with foil and poke holes into the foil, then light a coal and put it on top to cause the tobacco to burn,” explained senior Mitch Walla. “Then you inhale through the hose.”

Originating in northwestern India, the hookah has been a strong standing custom in many Middle Eastern countries. But when smoking from the hookah made its way to Turkey about 500 years ago, its popularity surged. Since then, many lounges and hookah bars have been set up around the world, including in the United States, to allow for groups of people to talk to one another in a relaxing environment.

In New Brunswick there is Kairo Kafe and Sahara Café, while in Philadelphia there are number of hookah lounges, including Fez and Byblos. Or, students may opt to smoke outdoors in groups around campus.

“I started smoking hookah last year when I was an RA in Conover,” said Walla. “We smoke hookah when it’s one of those days where you just have to be outside. Most of us even make it like our own special tradition, that time when we get together especially if we haven’t seen much of each other.”

Even those who do not wish to take part in the smoking aspect of it find themselves enjoying time with their friends who do.

“I’ve never actually smoked from a hookah,” said junior Dario Dastine. “I was introduced to it by a friend of mine. His family is from the Middle East and he wanted to share the different aspects of his culture.”

Accessibility in America to purchase a hookah for personal use has also greatly increased over the past few years. A quick Google search could easily locate dozens of places that carry hookahs of all shapes, sizes, colors and prices as well as various flavors of shisha.

“I actually just recently got myself a hookah,” said Walla. “The only times I’ve actually used it there’s been at least eight of us and we take a laptop outside for music, enjoy the weather and spend a few hours outside.”

The hookah is sometimes mistaken by Public Safety and even by the Lawrence Township police as a way to smoke illegal substances. Much of the confusion has since been cleared up, although Public Safety still must follow up on any complaints made about students using a hookah.

“The best was the night that someone called Lawrence [Township] Police, without first calling campus security,” said Walla. “We had three cop cars outside and they were questioning us, taking names, and asking to see driver’s licenses. It was just a mess. Then a few minutes later [Public Safety] came up and told us that they weren’t informed until the police told them about the situation. Afterwards Public Safety explained the situation to the police and then everything was fine and cleared.”

For those who wish to take part in it themselves there are a few rules of etiquette if you want to look like a seasoned pro.

It is considered unclean to handle the hose that extends from the hookah with your left hand. It is also customary to never pass the hose directly from one person to another but rather to place it on the table for the next person to pick up. And lastly, when multiple hoses are in use, any person not smoking should place his or her finger over the end of the hose so that others who are smoking do not inhale just air.

Shisha is reasonably priced and comes in almost every flavor imaginable, including pumpkin pie, chocolate, piña colada and honey.

“When you get the hookah going the smell surrounds you. I think apple smells best,” said Dastine.

Walla also said that his favorite is double apple, but he likes cantaloupe as well.

However, be advised that although shisha does not contain addictive amounts of nicotine, smoking from a hookah is still harmful to your health.

“Hookah isn’t healthy, but a lot of things in life aren’t; alcohol, other drugs, even half of what we eat,” said Walla. “It’s fine to do socially. Just doing it alone isn’t healthy, nor is doing it everyday.”

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