Hookah smoking has become a big trend for young people everywhere, and Northwest Arkansas is no exception.
Junior Niki Mangan has been a hookah fanatic since the age of 16, and when she moved to Fayetteville for college she brought her hobby with her.
“The first time I ever saw [a hookah], it totally fascinated me,” Mangan said. “It just seemed like the coolest thing ever. It wasn’t illegal, but it still gave you a buzz, and as far as I knew it was pretty harmless.”
Now, four years later, Mangan says she is “still into it.”
“It’s just a cool thing to do when you’re hanging out with friends or you want to relax,” she said. “It doesn’t get you high or anything so it’s not dangerous, it’s just a way to relax and socialize.”
To set up a hookah, the vase must be filled with water in order to submerge the down stem. The bowl on top is covered with aluminum foil that is then perforated by a sharp object, or a metal mesh screen. Hot coals are placed on top of the foil or screen, which makes the shisha tobacco in the bowl to heat up and smoke.
Sucking through the hose draws more heat onto the shisha and smoke travels down through the down stem and under water. The smoke then rises up above the water and into the hose port opening and then the hose until it reaches the smoker’s mouth.
“The way that it works, people are always just so amazed; they have no clue how the contraption can make smoke,” Mangan said. “It’s just cool the way that the water filters it and it just produces so much smoke so you get a really great show in addition to the way that it makes you feel.”
Hookahs come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Mangan has owned quite the variety herself.
“I bought my first one–just a tiny one, probably like six inches–when I was 16, shortly after I first smoked,” Mangan said. “Since that time I’ve always owned one and they seem to keep getting bigger and bigger.”
Mangan owns one now that is just over two feet, and another that is just over three feet.
“One of them was actually a gift from a friend in Iraq,” Mangan said.
Since her arrival in Fayetteville, Mangan has noticed that smoking hookah is certainly a trend in Northwest Arkansas.
“I’m sure it’s big on other college campuses too,” Mangan said. “It’s legal, so you don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with it, which I think makes it appeal to a lot of people,” she said. “Also, it’s not that expensive.”
There are a number of places around Fayetteville that sell hookahs, shisha and other hookah-smoking necessities. Some are bigger and more specialized than others. Of course, all necessary supplies can also be ordered online. Fayetteville also offers several hookah lounges where people can go and pay to smoke hookah with friends in a relaxed environment.
“I think it’s cheaper to own your own stuff so that you can smoke without people trying to make a profit off of you,” Mangan said. “However, if you don’t own a hookah or you’re not comfortable owning one there are hookah bars just pretty much all over the place,” she said.” “I think there are three or four in Fayetteville.”
Many are still uncertain about this growing trend, and certainly some will never touch a hookah. The fad continues to spread, though, and every day it becomes less of the stigma it once was.
“It’s easily accessible, not too expensive, and not nearly as dangerous as people think it is,” Mangan said.