To tap into a younger demographic, some proprietors are putting their businesses up in smoke – hookah smoke, that is.
Take Azar Khouri, the owner of Strongsville’s Gourme’ Deli, who introduced hookah to his customers two years ago to attract college-age kids to his restaurant.
For $10, a person or group can meet up on Gourme’s outdoor patio and smoke flavored tobacco out of the Indian water pipes.
“With hookahs, it’s typically a community activity,” Khouri said. “And since no other business or restaurant offers this type of smoking in Strongsville, I thought it’d be a good way to bring in new customers to enjoy the tobacco and our homemade food.”
The hookah trend is big among teens and young adults, many of whom believe the molasses-dipped, fruit-flavored tobaccos are less harmful than regular smoking -- possibly because the smoke is drawn into cooled water at the base of the pipe and inhaled through a sharable hose.
Not true, health officials say.
Despite its popularity and the fact that more than 300 hookah bars have cropped up in the U.S. over the last decade alone, the Center for Disease Control says water pipe smoke is at least just as toxic as smoking cigarettes and should not be thought of as a safer alternative.
And given the “frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation and length of the smoking session,” hookah smoke can be more toxic than cigarettes, according to the CDC website.
“Granted, there may be some safety misperceptions out there, but neither I nor my friends are smoking hookahs seven days a week,” resident Kyle Phillips said. “It’s an occasional, communal hobby. And not to necessarily boil it down to some equivalence issue, but I’d much rather see people smoking hookahs than swilling down beer or liquor.”