BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU residence halls have been smoke free since 1998, and now there's a new ban.
Students caught with a water pipe, known as a hookah, will have it confiscated by campus officials. But people who use hookahs may have other problems.
It's a popular way for people, especially young adults, to gather and socialize, smoking together using a water pipe called a hookah. But this semester LSU students in Baton Rouge have been told there are new rules: no hookahs allowed in or outside university residence halls.
"We decided to opt to list it specifically as potential drug paraphernalia and to outlaw it in line with our current policies of smoke free and illegal drug free," said Steve Waller, the director of the Department of Residential Life at LSU.
LSU officials are worried that it is a fire hazard, that it is unhealthy and students could also use the pipe for marijuana.
Some students on campus like hookahs.
"I really think that cigarettes are way more harsh on your throat. They are way worse for you. They have a lot extra chemicals and stuff like that, whereas hookah, it runs though water. It's a lot smoother and I think it's probably a lot safer," said LSU senior Jonathan SanFilippo, who is majoring in marketing.
"It's a lot of fun. You get a buzz off of it and kids could really like that and be addicted to it just as you could smoking a cigarette," said Anthony Schech, an electrical engineering junior at LSU.
And there is a common and dangerous misconception among students. Some think smoking tobacco this way, mixed with honey and fruit flavors, is not as deadly as smoking cigarettes. They think the nicotine is filtered through the water in the pipe. But studies show they are very wrong.
"Many people mistakenly believe that the water is filtering the smoke, and that is not correct. The water is probably moisturizing it a little bit but, it has been shown that the smoke emerges from the water really intact and it is unfiltered tobacco smoke that the users are consuming," said Dr. Carol Mason, a professor of Medicine and Pulmonary Critical Care expert at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
Doctors say you are at the same risk for all the cancers as cigarette smokers, disfiguring oral cancer, lung cancer, and cancers of the pancreas, esophagus, kidney and bladder, just to name a few.
"It's already been shown that the smoke from water pipes is capable of altering one's chromosomes, which is how lung cancer starts and all cancers start. That kind of damage has been demonstrated from the smoke from water pipe smoking," Mason said.
And there is another serious problem. Studies show that you will you get the same nicotine levels in your blood from smoking cigarettes as from smoking a hookah, but you will get more carbon monoxide in your blood.
In fact, hookah bars have higher levels of carbon monoxide from the burning charcoal. And it is well known that carbon monoxide is a poison, depriving the body of oxygen and at high levels causing brain damage.
And remember, nicotine crosses into the brain, causing addiction, and gets into the unborn baby of a pregnant mother.
"This is tobacco smoke that is being inhaled and the emerging evidence, the available evidence suggests that many components of it are as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than cigarette smoke," Mason said. And if you're sharing that pipe, you could catch hepatitis, herpes, tuberculosis, flu and other infections from your smoking partners.
The doctor says the sweet flavors in the tobacco make the smoke less irritating, giving a false sense that it is safer and making it more enticing to people young people.
Link to Reveille story: http://www.lsureveille.com/news/hookah-water-pipes-no-longer-allowed-in-dorms-1.2323264