Brett Tignor and Matt Becker
Water-pipe or hookah smoking is increasing in popularity on many college campuses, including at VCU. That’s according to a recent study by an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Psychology and Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies.
The study also found that smokers don’t know much about the health impact of hookah smoking.
“Well, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. We don’t know the answer to that, and it’s for that reason that I just got a grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to try and understand the answer to that,” said Dr. Thomas Eissenberg.
Hookah smoking often involves flavored tobacco and water-cooled smoke. The tobacco is heated by charcoal at the head of the smoking device. Smoke is then passed down a pipe into a water base. There, the smoke is cooled and the user inhales the smoke through a mouth piece that is connected to the hookah.
Smoking flavored tobacco is sometimes attractive to people who like smoke but dislike the taste and smell of cigarettes.
“So, there’s the great flavor, the great taste, the ease of smoking, and then there’s a social factor,” said Eissenberg, noting that hookah bars are popular near many college campuses.
Eissenberg says smoking through a water-pipe could lead to dependence over time. Previous studies have found water-pipe smoke contains about 1.4 times the amount of nicotine found in cigarettes and that hookah smokers both inhale more smoke at one time than cigarette smokers and their smoking sessions last longer. Cigarettes are typically smoked within a few puffs, but a hookah session can last well over 30 minutes.
Eissenberg, received more than $2.8 million from the NCI to study the contents of water-pipe smoke over the next five years.