Parents Shocked, Alarmed Over Underage Hookah Smoking

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


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Parents were surprised to find out this week that hookah bars just blocks away from two schools on the East Side of Providence were serving tobacco to underage smokers.

“I guess I was surprised that the kids were even getting there, number one, and number two, that they got served,” said Lynn McCarthy, whose son is a sophomore at The Wheeler School. “It’s a little disturbing that it’s so easily accessible to them.”

Across the street from the Wheeler campus, on Meeting Street, are two hookah bars—Zenobia and Providence Byblos. An undercover GoLocalProv investigation found that the two bars were serving hookahs to minors, even though state law prohibits anyone under 18 from smoking any kind of tobacco product.

“This is the new thing to do,” said one Wheeler mother. “I’m sure that there are people who have no idea.”

The mother—who asked that her name not be used—said she had spoken to other mothers at the school who also were surprised to hear that underage smokers were being admitted to hookah bars.

Parent: Hookah Smoking Could Lead to Drug Use

One mother who was not surprised was Christine Rhodes, whose son and daughter attend Moses Brown, which is near the Meeting Street hookah bars. “I know of students who have gone there who have not been carded,” she told GoLocalProv. “I really think it’s akin to a bar that serves underage alcohol. It’s really as dangerous.”

Rhodes, who is clinician and social worker at Amos House, specializes in substance abuse. She warns that hookah smoking—itself as dangerous as smoking one hundred cigarettes, according to a Harvard study—could lead to other harmful behaviors.

“I think the hookah bars normalize smoking out of water pipes, which I think normalizes smoking marijuana. I think it’s a pretty short distance from that to smoking pot,” Rhodes said. “I really don’t think we should be supporting or encouraging that kind of an atmosphere for our kids.”

Teens who start smoking at an early age should realize there will be consequences down the road, Rhodes said. “No one begins thinking ‘I’m going to get addicted or this will lead to problems,’” she added.


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