Hookah smoking, which most American children first became acquainted with after watching the animated Alice in Wonderland, is becoming increasingly popular among first-year college women, many of who (incorrectly) believe that hookah smoke is a relatively innocuous alternative to cigarettes.
The study, funded by those concerned souls over at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, suggests a link between hookah smoking and alcohol and marijuana use, as well as an increased propensity for pretension. (That last thing is made up, but it seems like it should be the primary risk associated with hookah smoking.) Researchers found that women who drank more alcohol were more likely to use hookah, and, from there, it was only another lilypad hop to smoking pot in their pajamas all day while the self-appointed "film buff" in their circle of friends puts on The Seventh Seal and glares every time someone has the audacity to giggle at the silly make-up.
We should all take these findings very seriously, according to the researchers involved with this study, because hookah smoke has been linked to many of the same diseases caused by cigarette smoke, such as lung cancer, respiratory illness, and periodontal disease. However, if college kids can't gather around a smoldering something, how are they going to make friends from scratch, impressing each other with humorous anecdotes about all the truly reckless high school things they never actually did?
Lead author Robyn L. Fielder, acknowledging the social facility of gathering in a smoke circle, warned that college freshman are at particularly high risk for developing unhealthy behavior patterns because they're all so susceptible to the urge to make friends in any way they can.
The popularity and social nature of hookah smoking, combined with the fact that college freshmen are more likely to experiment with risky behavior, could set the stage for a potential public health issue, given what we know about the health risks of hookah smoking.
Hookah smokers are exposed to higher doses of nicotine and inhale way more carbon monoxide than plain old cigarette smokers. They're also at greater risk of knocking hookah coals onto their friend's really nice rug, which is not and never will be okay. For the study, 435 first-year college women completed an initial detailing their precollege hookah use, followed by 12 monthly surveys about their subsequent hookah experiences. Researchers linked a higher level of impulsivity and a strong tendency to compare oneself to others as the best indicators of whether or not those college women would take up hookah smoking as a habit. "Youth," said Fielder, "tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers use substances, and because it's important to fit in with one's peers, this can lead to greater risk-taking." So, in their competitive efforts to be the biggest and most glamorous substance-using badasses, college women just assumed that they had a lot of hookah smoking to do before they came even close to catching up with their friends.
No word on why the study only focused on college women, since none of these findings seem particularly gender specific. Does the NIAAA think that hookah smoking isn't as scandalous for college men as it is for college women? And here I'd thought that the flappers had already paved the way for women to smoke socially way back during the Jazz Age.