Hookah Called a Pleasing Smoke--or a Smoke Screen

Hookah Called a Pleasing Smoke--or a Smoke Screen
Posted by CN Staff on June 24, 2003 at 08:29:57 PT
By Lisa Black, Tribune Staff Reporter
Source: Chicago Tribune 
Despite notorious links to the drug culture, the hookah is enjoying a whiff of mainstream popularity as college students flock to new cafes, where it's become trendy to spend the evening puffing on the exotic water pipes.Concerns about the danger of smoking have not dampened the appeal of restaurants like Evanston's Cafe Hookah, which offers dozens of fruity tobacco blends in a rekindling of a centuries-old Middle Eastern tradition.
"It's neat because it's ancient," said Luke Griffiths, 20, a Northwestern University student from Athens, Ill. "You can sit here and imagine not being in yuppie Evanston but in Turkey."Nationally, health officials are worried about the trend, saying the hookah hangouts popping up across the country are just another way to entice young people to smoke. And federal customs officials concerned that water pipes are still used to smoke hashish and marijuana bluntly warn they view them with a wary eye.Although not specifically targeted in U.S. drug laws, the hookah could be deemed illegal under federal drug paraphernalia prohibitions if used to smoke illicit substances, officials said. The smaller "water bongs," a similar pipe also famed for drug use, are outlawed."From the tobacco-control perspective, this is just another clever, devious manipulation of people's social desires," said Peter Jacobson, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. "To see this as anything other than a gateway back to cigarette smoking is very naive."The hookah's growing popularity is difficult to measure, but at least 200 to 300 new hookah houses have opened throughout the United States in the last three to five years, according to industry estimates. Dozens are concentrated in California, while others dot the East Coast, mostly near college campuses.The revival of the water pipe as a chic pastime is new to the Midwest--at least among the youthful crowds visiting Cafe Hookah, which opened in October. In countries such as Lebanon or Turkey, smoking a hookah is a social activity usually shared after dinner or at a cafe over a cup of coffee or tea.Some Middle Eastern restaurants in the Chicago area have long offered the pipe, but the practice has been geared more toward cultural tradition, not as an American fad akin to oxygen bars and chocolate martinis.Also a `nargileh' or `shisha' The water pipe, often nearly 3 feet high or taller, is also called a "nargileh" or "shisha." They use charcoal to heat the tobacco, which is soaked in molasses or honey and mixed with fruit pulp for flavor. Smokers inhale from long fabric hoses, using disposable plastic mouthpieces. Each hookah usually sports one, two or three hoses.The smoke is filtered through water, giving it a smooth, sweet taste without a burning feeling, enthusiasts say.On a recent night, upbeat Moroccan, Lebanese and Israeli music played at Cafe Hookah, and red velvet cloth and student artwork adorned the walls. A high-powered ventilator sucked up most of the smoke, leaving a lingering fruity scent. The place seats about 40 and isn't required to provide a non-smoking section because of its small size.Vartan Seferian, owner of the cafe at 726 Clark St. in Evanston, said he has all but quit his former job as a mechanical engineer because of the restaurant's success.Seferian, 38, of Glenview, said he plans to open two similar restaurants by August, with one near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the other at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.Cafe Hookah offers 48 flavors of imported tobacco, including cantaloupe, banana, cherry, tutti-frutti and vanilla. Smokers, who must be 18, pay $15 or more to share a hookah, which lasts half an hour or longer, depending on how many use it."It's a very relaxing atmosphere. We're very social," said Seferian, who greets many of his customers with a hug while his mother whips up Mediterranean food in the kitchen. "Students come in and read, drink coffee and bring laptops."A manager for Hookah Brothers, which markets water pipes, estimated the company will finish the year with $2.5 million in sales, marking a dramatic increase from its humble origins.The Los Angeles-based company got its start seven years ago on Venice Beach, where its founder displayed 10 water pipes on a blanket, general manager Ahmed Roushdy said. Today the company sells hookah paraphernalia to about 100 cafes and outlets, he said. `What are you smoking?' In Ann Arbor, Mich., the Rendezvous Cafe near the University of Michigan began offering the water pipes two months ago. Patrons may also access the Internet on cafe computers."Usually it's not the cigarette smokers who like hookah," Rendezvous manager Jamil Hamady said. "Just certain people. You get used to it, like cigarettes."In the U.S., young smokers don't always realize that hookahs have been associated with using marijuana since the 1960s and 1970s--a fact that escapes few among the middle-age set."I still get people who walk past me and say, `What is that?' and `What are you smoking?'" Roushdy said. "The older generation, they have a big smile on their face."Health officials are skeptical about claims of reduced nicotine and no tar with water pipes, although they admit that little research has been done on the effects of hookah smoking, especially in the U.S., where they are just noticing the trend.But they point to a small number of medical studies in the Middle East that have concluded smoking water pipes elevates carbon monoxide levels and increases the risks for cancers and low birth weights. They say the nicotine inhaled is significant enough to cause addiction."It's not safe; the potential for addiction is very high and the health effects over the long term are not something to write off and say it's not a big deal," said Dr. Thomas Houston, a director with the American Medical Association in Chicago.People who grew up in the Middle Eastern countries where hookahs are part of the culture say they don't understand the big deal.Canan Ugar, 18, a Northwestern student from Turkey, spends nearly every evening at the Evanston cafe with other international students, drinking coffee, nibbling sandwiches and sharing a hookah."It reminds me of home," Ugar said. "We spent our Thanksgiving here."Note: The exotic water pipe has been enjoyed for ages, but U.S. health and law-enforcement officials are wary of its new popularity.Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)Author: Lisa Black, Tribune Staff ReporterPublished: June 24, 2003Copyright: 2003 Chicago Tribune CompanyContact: ctc-TribLetter Tribune.comWebsite: -- Paraphernalia Archives
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Comment #14 posted by afterburner on April 25, 2004 at 09:14:44 PT
E_J -- Good Theory
Cultural anthropologists hail bread and beer, both yeasted foods, as among the earliest agricultural products."During the next phase of habitation around 3700 to 3500 B.C., still before any evidence of Uruk colonists or the introduction of writing, Tell Hamoukar was a well-organized prosperous town of about 30 acres, apparently enclosed by a defensive wall that was 10 feet tall and 13 feet wide. "There is evidence of food preparation on an institutional scale, with large ovens capable of producing bread, beer and meal. Archaeologists found pieces of large cooking pots and ash with evidence of wheat, barley, oats and animal bones." --Expedition reveals beginnings of urban civilization interesting cultural artifact is the effect of Christian missionaries banning a fermented beer-like drink which led to B-vitamin deficiencies in the native population. --reference link: sorry, nothing on the search engines about the specific information I once read in a book, whose name I don't currently remember.The Western cultural/pharmaceutical/medical fixation on finding the "active ingredient" in plants is partly responsible for the distillation of alcohol, which makes it more difficult to "drink responsibly [Smirnoffs]."MFA for 2004!
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Comment #13 posted by afterburner on April 25, 2004 at 08:20:21 PT
John Wayne
"...the hookah crowd might become "addicted" to tobacco? As if cigarettes weren't far more available!"...and more addictive. What's next, a ban on cigarettes? Prosecution for tobacco paraphernalia? Jail time for tobacco possession, trafficking, and cultivation? Don't hold your breath. Like many here, I am tired of cannabis "dangers" being inferred by the antis based on the negative health side-effects of tobacco and alcohol, and the social and domestic violence and road carnage caused by over-consumption of alcohol."You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
"With the love grass in his hand
"Oh but the pusher is a monster
"Good God, he's not a natural man
"The dealer for a nickel
"Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
"Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
"Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream"
--STEPPENWOLF lyrics - "The Pusher" know the rest.
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Comment #12 posted by Virgil on April 22, 2004 at 13:38:36 PT
Don't forget Big Tobacco
A breakdown in the cigarette as a delivery device cost tobacco companies money. People can buy tobacco directly from Brazil and leave out Big Tobacco altogether. Then they might decide to have a few plants. There is a force that makes words like vaporizers taboo to print or televise because it is a threat to Big Tobacco and the governments whose settlement money depends on sales of cigarettes.The government does not want to ban cigarettes and from the efforts they use to curb use a person can only discern that they enjoy the tax money. We do hear of governments calling for tax increases as a way to curb use, but this is disingenuous on the face of it. 
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Comment #11 posted by Narghile on April 22, 2004 at 12:54:41 PT:
The World Craze for Narghile/Hookah/Shisha
One must take into account the accumulated findings of socio-anthropological research on the subject. Only the above-mentioned research framework can help shed light on this new - and strange for many - phenomenon, i.e. the globalisation of narghile (hookah, shisha) use for almost a decade now. Two reference unique books have been written on the subject. The last one was published in Paris (France) under the title "Le Monde du Narguilé" (The World of Narghile/Hookah)(156 pages, colour, Ed. Maisonneuve et Larose, 2002).The first one (Le narguile. Anthropologie d'un mode d'usage de drogues douces, E. L'Harmattan, 1997) tackled the relation of narghile/hookah to drugs.Besides, there is a unique trilingual reference website : 
The Sacred Narghile
The Sacred Narghile
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Comment #10 posted by john wayne on June 26, 2003 at 20:59:01 PT
victorian prudery
Even though these hookah users are smoking nothing more than good ole' US-sanctified tobacco leaf, certain bluenoses are up in arms!Why? Because hookahs *look* like bongs.Anybody remember the story of the way victorians made pantaloons for their pianos because the piano legs *looked* like human legs and were thusly sexually suggestive?And these croakers decrying that the hookah crowd might become "addicted" to tobacco? As if cigarettes weren't far more available!
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Comment #9 posted by CorvallisEric on June 24, 2003 at 14:02:40 PT
I would guess the same problems found with waterpipes for cannabis might apply to tobacco - it's a poor drug delivery device, as suggested by phil_debowl in comment 6.Contrary to popular impression, waterpipes don't necessarily protect smokers from harmful tars in marijuana smoke, according to a new study sponsored by MAPS and California NORML. The reason is that waterpipes filter out more psychoactive THC than they do other tars, thereby requiring users to smoke more to reach their desired effect. The study does not rule out the possibility that waterpipes could have other benefits, such as filtering out gases, but it suggests that other methods, such as the use of high potency marijuana, vaporizers, or oral ingestion are needed to avoid harmful toxins in marijuana smoke. are several other smoking-device articles on the MAPS website. Vaporizer Research: An Update (Spring 2003):
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on June 24, 2003 at 12:36:43 PT
Thanks for telling us how a Hookah Bar is. I can imagine it would be a nice way for young adults to meet one another in a relaxed setting.John Tyler I'm afraid your thinking seems right.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on June 24, 2003 at 11:39:54 PT
That was very nice. Thank you.
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Comment #6 posted by phil_debowl on June 24, 2003 at 11:23:28 PT
We went to Haite St. Fest in San Fran a couple of weekends ago, and there was a really kewl head shop, that had hookah's all over the counters for anyone that wanted to smoke for free. It was my 1st hookah experience, and it was pretty kewl. Tasted yummy. I'm a smoker and it did nothing to curb my need for nicotine. As soon as we were done i needed a cig, so i'm thinking the addictive qualities of a hookah are much less than cigarrettes with hybrid "nicotine delivery systems". 
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Comment #5 posted by BigDawg on June 24, 2003 at 11:13:47 PT
E_J and FOM
I thoroughly enjoyed both of your comments.This is what makes CN what it is in my book.
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Comment #4 posted by RevHappy on June 24, 2003 at 10:52:07 PT:
Id Like to do this...
We own the original courthouse/police station in rural Michigan and plan to turn it into a coffeehouse. I wouldn't mind doing the hooka thing too.Anyone who can help us in this, pass me an email
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Comment #3 posted by John Tyler on June 24, 2003 at 10:34:54 PT
Hookah Cafes
It's too bad these Hookah Cafes are getting a higher profile. They sound pretty cool. They better be prepared for trouble though. It doesn't matter what they are smoking. To the Talibans that infest our government, hookahs look weird, and can easily be used for other purposes. No "normal true American" would use a hookah anyway. So, in the name of "protecting the children" or "sending the right message", or (fill in the blank) they will have to intervien and nip this fad in the bud. Cafes will be subject to restrictions, raids, building code violations, zoning violations, RAVE law violations, anything you can think of.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on June 24, 2003 at 10:00:01 PT
Yes EJ
Very good points. The way I see it is that we are very complex creatures. We have basic needs. We need to eat and we need water to drink and we need a place to live. When we get out of basic needs to survive that is where we have problems depending on a persons beliefs. Some need to seek God. We need to be loved. We need to relax or life can consume us. We must get recharged now and then. There is a time for every season under the sun. Substances can allow an individual to temporarily go on a mind vacation and that might be needed. Some go on expensive vacations but most people don't have that option because it's to hard to afford. Sometimes we do need to tune out. I liked what you said.
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on June 24, 2003 at 09:43:20 PT
My new theory about drugs and alcohol
It seems from the American example that alcohol creates violence, because we see this in bars. But the places where alcohol is banned have even more violent people than we have here. In Saudi Arabia, the people are fairly violent and intolerant towards one another. They're harsh on more than just alcohol. They throw each other in jail over little things like flirting and dressing wrong. Maybe if alcohol weren't banned, they'd be better to each other on average. Maybe alcohol makes a repessive society impossible to maintain.Maybe in some way, alcohol and drugs are responsible for civilization.Maybe alcohol makes some people more violent but makes humanity on the average less violent.Maybe the human animal is born crazy and stupid and intolerant and overexcited and lazy and uninspired, and needs some kind of medication, on the average, to rise above the native human state.I don't see that the countries where alcohol is banned are so civilized. They have adopted technology built for them by people who have a few beers after work. But they can't even really make their own societies work, and their rebels tend to end up as extremists rather than reformers.Maybe alcohol and drugs are more important to civilization and civil liberties than we imagine.
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