Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Water Bongs are back!

I read about this phenomenon a couple weeks ago at Father Jim Tucker's Dappled Things, but the Washington Post has an article today: Hookah bars (click on headline above to see story).

A "hookah" is a water pipe, used for smoking. In this case, its for tobacco. As I recall, the hookah is a Turkish thing (as I was preparing a talk on the Crusades, I'm not feeling particularly warm about things Turkish, what with the fall of Constantinople fresh in my mind...but anyway).

Part of this is amusing. When I was a teenager, water pipes, aka "bongs," were used to smoke something more illicit; but, then again, what could be more illicit than smoking tobacco in a public place? It does look like a pleasant place, if the smoke won't bother you.

Part of this concerns me, however. I can't be all that sanguine about kids fresh out of high school pursuing smoking as a cool, trendy thing to do.

Then it dawned on me.

Wanna bet the tobacco industry is helping this along?

This is one of those issues where the Libertarian part of me and the moralist part of me go at it. No, I don't want smokers harrassed, taxed and sued, nor have I any patience for them suing the tobacco companies saying, "you tricked me!" or "you made me!" I don't particularly like public smoking bans and a lot of the mindset that goes with it.

On the other hand, smoking is a terrible thing for ones health. Oh, smoking an occasional cigar, and I guess a little pipe smoking, probably doesn't do too much harm. And in the interest of full disclosure, I used to enjoy cigars and a pipe. I gave it all up, not out of any great purpose, but that I found I didn't enjoy it anymore. Pipe smoking, in particular, is just too much trouble; and I found I got green from smoking cigars.

But pulling that stuff into ones lungs--I never understood how anyone could think that wouldn't be bad for a person.

And as for smoking bans, the one thing that recommends them to me is this: not the plight of the customer -- the customer in a business has no claim whatsoever, in my view, because he or she can go elsewhere, and also, the customer doesn't stay that long. No, my concern is for the employees who work in such establishments. Yes, they can "go elsewhere" too, but that's a harder thing to ask them to do.

I still oppose the laws, since I rather suspect the whole second-hand smoke thing is vastly overstated. I don't really know, and have no reason to do all the research; but we've all been burnt by junk, politicized, ideology-driven science in recent years, and I just don't take any of these claims on face value anymore.


Deacon Jim said...

The local Lebanese community in New York's Capital holds an annual dinner, dance, and party - including hookah smoking.

I think Fr. Jim (maybe I'm wrong) noted that hookah smoking is very similar to the one-off cigar or pipe. You don't do it 24/7 or count the number of packets of hookah tobacco you put down/day. It's a one-off pleasure and part of a social/cultural milieu.

I remember reading a very funny and true quote from an Islamic writer talking about why Islamic militancy is bad – again, don’t remember where. In it he said that pushing this militancy, especially by those who laze around the cafes in the Middle East, will result in a Western backlash – and that after the war there will be no more hookah, no more shish-kebab, no more cafes, just flat earth.

Anonymous said...

Yes the whole passive smoking effects thing could be over-rated but just in case it isn't - in the interest of all those waitresses, waiters, barmen and barmaids - maybe it is better to err on the side of caution.

Nârwen said...

For some of us, it's difficult to be rational on the subject of smoking. In my own case, the fact that my father died from his heavy cigarette smoking when I was 12 makes it intensely repulsive to me. However, I don't push my views on people- as long as they don't blow the stuff in my face, they can do what they want.

Mike L said...

I suspect that the passive smoking effects are real. I certainly know that I enjoy eating a meal in a resturant without smoke. And before I retired I often had to fly from Washington DC to Syracuse, and it was amazing to me how much better I felt after a flight when the no smoking rules went in.

This is one of those difficult situations of how to balance my right to clear air and at the same time support their desire for and/or thier addiction for tobacco. And don't kid yourself, tobacco is addictive for about 50 per cent of those that smoke. When I quite I went through all the clasic withdrawl symptoms including shakes and nausea for about two weeks. When I stopped drinking it was a picnic compared to that.

I smoked long enough that for many years I felt that I had no reason to ask others to stop doing what I had done. But today I feel that I have the right to protect myself from the intrusion of smoke from others.

Courtesy may be the proper answer, but that seems to be lacking in both smokers and not smokers.

Thursday said...

As Eddie Izzard said:
"[in reference to CA bar smoking ban] Yes, no smoking in bars now and soon no drinking and no talking! Be careful California, you're supposed to be the crazy state — out there, the wild ones. Soon everybody will be saying, 'Come down to the library, we'll have a wild time!'"
And don't worry, plenty of young people still smoke the more illicit substances in their bongs!
(Not me though, the closest I get to smoking is drinking a dram of Laphroaig!)

Yours in Christ,

Anonymous said...

nice....but try these water bongs: http://www.water-bongs-glass-pipes.com/

Kevin said...

Smoking with bongs is really cooooooool. I prefer using bongs when I am at leisure. It's a great experience very much different from normal cigarette smoking. Btw, I smoke only tobacco not anything illegal.