Editorial: University adds hookah to prohibited substances

Two years ago, when the University decided to strengthen its alcohol and drug violation policy, it helped to mitigate the illegal activities on campus. Students started taking state laws more seriously and finding themselves facing real consequences for their illegal actions. However, the onset of the University’s new policy on hookah is not accomplishing the same goal.

While hookah is still legal in the state of Pennsylvania, the University now includes hookah in its list of prohibited items and behavior. Other items on the list include drugs illegal in Pennsylvania as well as associated paraphernalia. The decision to begin including hookah as a prohibited substance has sparked controversy on campus, as many students partake in the activity and feel their rights are being violated.

The New York Times published an article on May 30 of last year entitled “Putting a Crimp in the Hookah.” The article discussed the move toward deeming the substance illegal, as well as hookah bars in certain states and bans put on them by colleges across the country.  One reason cited is the health concern from smoking. Many believe that the water filtering process in hookah smoking eliminates all of the harmful chemicals, but that is false. The activity is still a health risk, leading to the bans from states and universities.

If the University is jumping on board with the health hazards of the substance, then why is it not banning other substances at least as harmful? With cigarette smoking still allowed on campus, students are jeopardizing their health in the same way, while often afflicting other students as well. Secondhand smoke is considered an annoyance by any student who chooses not to smoke, and many are often caught downstream, unable to separate themselves from an activity in which they choose not to participate. The health concerns associated with cigarettes should justify their placement on the banned substances list if that argument is being made for hookah.

As a health concern, there’s nothing preventing students from choosing to smoke hookah off campus. The Grasshopper, on Market Street, offers the activity at a hookah bar, creating a social setting. There’s no reason that students can’t choose to continue affecting their health by smoking.

Additionally, some students on campus smoke hookah as a cultural practice. With the University’s effort to improve and increase diversity on campus by hiring an associate provost for diversity and an associate dean of students for diversity, it seems contradictory that the new policy is so blatantly disregarding a multicultural activity. While candles are prohibited on campus, menorahs are allowed with permission during Hanukkah. If we will acknowledge and accommodate certain practices but not others, students are led to distrust the administration and its policies.

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