Every student on planet Earth knows that (alcohol) drinking habits can easily go really south. Slamming beer after beer, vodka shots racing, and the infamous beer pong. Alcohol overconsumption leads to fatal problems, muscle wasting, and energy loss. Is there a safer, healthier alternative?
Hookah – alternatively a water pipe, a smoking device you inhale smoke from.
Shisha – the tobacco you smoke from a hookah
Steam stones – nicotine-free alternative to shisha (tobacco)
What is a hookah?
Hookah, water pipe, shisha are the most common names for this smoking device. Tobacco (or nicotine-free steam stones, more on them later) burns slowly in a small bowl, as it burns, smoke travels from a water chamber to your mouth through a hose. Why do I advise smoking? smoking is bad for health too! There are two reasons
a) It tastes GREAT
Shisha is nothing like classic tobacco which tastes harsh and smells awfully. Shisha comes in a variety of different tastes, from fruit – Apple, Apricot, Peach, Watermelon to chocolate, mint, energy drink and so on. Basically, whatever you think of, there is a tobacco to smoke. The smoke is cooled and filtered by water, which makes it cold cloud tasting like watermelon or whatever tobacco or steam stones are you smoking. You can even go further and add juice to the vase instead of water.
b) It is traditional for social meetings
Hookahs origins trace back to ancient India in the 15th century. Those ornamented smoking devices held strong in the Arabic part of the world and nowadays still serve their purpose. A smoking session usually takes place for about two hours. The smoke will get you chilled and relaxed after just a few draws. Hookah is a great tool to make social meetings and “chill sessions”. A much better alternative to slurping a dozen beers.
Steam stones vs tobacco
You can buy either special hookah tobacco called shisha or steam stones.
Tobacco is just special tobacco with molasse (flavoring) added. There are a lot of brands available depending on where you live. In Europe, nakhla and al-fakher are amongst the most popular ones. In the United States you can get starbuzz, fantasia over the counter easily.
Steam stones are lava stones, usually used in a sauna, crushed to little pieces. These small stones are soaked in molasse (flavoring). Flavoring is being vaporized (there is no smoke, only a steam while smoking steam stones), creating pleasant flavor.
Steam stones are generally a lot easier on your health (absence of nicotine, no smoke) and provide better clouds (which majority of smokers find satisfying). Tobacco, on the other hand, offers the “buzz” from nicotine, making it even better for “lay down and chill”.
I recommend you to try both steam stones and tobacco.
Constantly putting smoke in your mouth is going to have some side effects. There is always a possibility of getting lung or throat cancer, but it is many times lower than with smoking cigarets. Smoke is filtered by water, which makes it “healthier” and if you use steam stones, no nicotine is involved at all.
Always consult your doctor! Do not smoke hookah every day for hours and you should be okay.
Did I get you hooked (pun intended)? Good. Now you need to buy basic equipment. Hookah, coals, and tobacco or steam stones to get started. Do not get overwhelmed from all the available types, shapes and new gadgets. Remember, ancient Egyptians have been smoking hookah since 12th century. If they had pipes that produced good smoke, you can too, even with a cheap hookah.
Buying a hookah
Hookahs come in different styles and are made from different materials. There are many types of them, but I feel no need to describing them all. Just pick one that you like. However, be mindful about a few things.
a) accessory – look for a hookah that is manufactured by a big company that offers bowls, hoses, vases that fit on your hookah. You might have a bad day, break your bowl (happened to me and is super easy). Without readily available substitution, the hookah is ready to be thrown in a garbage bin. In Europe, a suitable manufacturer is Shishabucks, al fakher or Aladin
b) good reviews – A lot of vastly different hookahs are offered on the market, some built better, others build well. While they are hard to distinguish by mere eye, read up some reviews and pick the one with four to five stars.
c) design – After all, you are probably going to spend quite a lot of time with hookah you buy, so it better be good looking. Be it old school Egyptian hookah or modern glass ones, make sure it is to your liking.
Coals – only use natural coconut charcoals. Avoid quick light coals like a plague. They are unhealthy, will incur you a nasty headache and are more expensive.
Coal burner – invest in a cheap coal burner, it can be as simple as this one. Trying to light natural charcoals on the stove is not the best idea, it takes a lot of time and the stove gets damaged after a while. Coal burner cost only a few bucks and makes smoking hookah much easier.
Try both tobacco and steam stones – both have their advantages and disadvantages. I have been more inclined to steam stones (healthier, and you can carry on normal daily activities – such as stuyding or working out without problem), but I have been also promoter of tobacco (makes you chilled the fuck out, nicotine buzz is a thing!)
It takes time ! I have my hookah for about a year. First session were shit, then it stared getting better. Practice makes perfect. Try to not get easily discouraged by failure. Instead, look up youtube tutorials and join reddit hookah page.