I am a hookah hypocrite. As a public health nurse I am the first to rail against cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol use, and hook-up culture. I believe all are public health issues and hurt not only individuals, but communities.
And I am a hypocrite. Because I have been known to give my sixteen year olds hookahs as rites of passage and sit in a comradely fashion among them puffing my way through mango tobacco. When I excitedly told my friend Cathy (who knows me well) that I had found a hookah, the perfect gift for my son’s sixteenth birthday, the conversation went like this:
She: “You gave him a bong?”
Me: “A What?”
She: “A bong”.
Me: “What’s a bong?”
Turns out, a bong is a hookah but the word is used primarily in relation to marijuana use. No way did I give my son a bong! I would NEVER have given my son a bong. I’m a public health nurse! I gave him a hookah. In my mind, these were two totally different things. Hookah hypocrisy. But before you cast a stone, let me explain the roots of this hypocritical stance.
shisha), your choice of flavored tobacco, and mint tea is an unforgettable cultural experience. Those who know our family know the times we have ached to be back in the land of palm trees and shisha, warm hospitality and shawarma, revolutions and passion. It is those times that have led me down the hypocritical path of shisha endorsement, caught on camera film for all the world to see. It is trying to explain the cultural aspect of this that gets me in trouble with the mother who calls and asks who I think “Introduced the boys to the hookah? It’s just one more thing to worry about…” chagrined I own up and take responsibility for my hypocrisy. The mom goes on to tell me about the article in the NY Times that speaks in journalistic detail of the dangers of hookah smoke. She goes on to tell about the letter to the editor that followed the article from the esteemed president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although I want to shut her up, I stand duly rebuked.
I want to be able to qualify my actions through a cross-cultural lens, letting those who disapprove know that we don’t smoke shisha more than once or twice yearly. That when we do it’s a bonding event and no more than a few weak puffs are taken. But at the end of the day, I don’t have an excuse for either my endorsement or my behavior.
A deeper analysis helps me recognize that just as I want people to be able to understand my hookah hypocrisy, as both a nurse and human being, I need to be capable of understanding theirs. But today I’m not going there. I’m confessing to the world that I am a hypocrite and remain convinced of the magic of warm evenings and shisha smoke on outside patios.
- Putting a Crimp in the Hookah (nytimes.com)
- States Seek to Crack Down on Hookah Lounges (abcnews.go.com)
- Hookah Use Common Among College Students, Survey Finds (nlm.nih.gov)