KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. College students are turning to hookah bars as a substitute for public drinking, taking up an old method of smoking tobacco from the Middle East.
Part of the attraction is that smoking a hookah, which filters tobacco smoke through water, can be a social activity, The Kansas City Star reported. Carter Harrington 18, of Platte City, who said he has never used cigarettes, was at the Aladdin Cafe in Kansas City with two friends.
"You can bring your girlfriend here, but you wouldn't bring your girlfriend to go smoke a pack of cigarettes," he told the newspaper.
Proprietors of hookah bars say the practice is safer than smoking cigarettes and less likely to be addictive. Doctors say the smoke from hookahs may still be dangerous.
In recent years, cigarette use has dropped sharply, while hookah bars have become more common. Kansas City has several and many have opened in college towns.
"Between the ages 18 and 21, there's nothing to do," said Farid Azzeh, owner of Jerusalem Cafe in Kansas City's Westport neighborhood. "And this is something."