UNCG Researcher: Feed Your Head with Knowledge Not Hookah

June 6, 2012

A marketing professor at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has spent years studying the hookah pipe phenomenon growing around college campuses. She wants to debunk the myths surrounding hookah — primarily that it is safer than cigarette smoking – and develop messages to counter those myths. Her research has been published in several major journals.

(PRWEB) June 06, 2012

Merlyn Griffiths is dazzled by the beauty of hookah pipes. But, she has learned, even beautiful things can be dangerous.

Griffiths, a marketing professor in the Bryan School of Business and Economics at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has spent years researching the allure of hookah for young people. And how to counter misleading messages and misinformation about the growing phenomenon.

“Hookah pipes are gorgeous, elemental works of art, but we´re sitting at the threshold, the beginning, if you will, of what could be an epidemic,” she says. “Let´s put the truth about what the consequences are in front of the public more clearly, more visibly. There´s a perpetuation of myths around smoking tobacco this way and I hope to demystify the whole process.”

And part of the myth of hookah is that it is safer than cigarettes.

Not so, says Griffiths, who published an article about the need for awareness and regulation of hookah in The Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. Another article by Griffiths and Eric Ford, a UNCG colleague, will appear in the Journal of Social Work and Public Health in 2013.

Hookah smokers take in the equivalent of 100 cigarettes during just one hookah smoking session, which might last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, says Griffiths. Not to mention the added risk from the charcoal used to burn the tobacco, and the risk of contracting diseases like herpes, hepatitis and tuberculosis through shared mouthpieces.

Perhaps the biggest myth about hookah is the belief held by most smokers that the water used in the hookah filters out the dangerous compounds found in tobacco. But studies have found hookah smoke to contain high levels of aerosols and other heavy metals, she says. Tar compounds are not water soluble, and the same dangerous compounds in cigarette smoke are found in the hookah smoke.

Add in the carbon monoxide and other byproducts of burning charcoal and you have what Griffiths calls a real health crisis.

Griffiths collects hookah charcoals, which she plans to send to a lab for analysis. Hookah charcoals tend to have exotic names like Sultan and Cleopatra; ingredients are almost never disclosed on the packaging or are listed in Arabic.

The hookah, an ornately crafted smoking apparatus, originated more than 500 years ago in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa, and is becoming increasingly trendy in the U.S., especially around college campuses. If you are unfamiliar with the hookah, just picture the smoking caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland.”

The hookah is traditionally a “male-driven, male-practiced kind of ritual typical in Mediterranean cultures,” she says. This has made it particularly popular in frat houses and among servicemen who encounter it overseas.

Griffiths has identified more than 1,100 hookah businesses across the country. In Greensboro alone, just follow the signs to Smoke Rings Hookah Headquarters, Hookah Hook-up, Petra Hooka, 2 Arabian Nights Hookah Lounge, Al-Basah Hookah Lounge, and Sky High Hookah Lounge and Smoke Shop.

Griffiths first encountered the hookah phenomenon in 2005. She was completing her PhD at the University of California at Irvine, when a young man participating in her dissertation study told her he was hanging out at hookah bars. Curious, she asked him to take her along one evening.

“I was there for four hours, but I never smoked,” she says. “I left him and his friends there still smoking. It was sort of like a happy hour for hipsters and college students. “How do you frame messages to fit the behavior?” she asks, looking to counteract advertising messages designed to draw college students. “We can´t create the right messages until we understand what the behavior is.”

And so, without taking a puff on the hookah, Griffiths was hooked. She was fascinated by its history, its beauty, and its skyrocketing popularity in the U.S. Most importantly, she wanted to fully understand its attraction for young people, how they use it, and the health risks it poses.

“My mom says I´m on a mission to tear hookah apart,” she says. “Tearing it apart is one thing, but educating consumers about the consequences of this consumption choice is actually what I intend to do.”

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/6/prweb9571348.htm

Source: prweb

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