A place to relax

Bryan Bartsch, Junior in History, shows off his ability to blow smoke rings, Wednesday, September 17, 2008, at the Chicha Shack on Lincoln Way. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Logan Gaedke

Bryan Bartsch, Junior in History, shows off his ability to blow smoke rings, Wednesday, September 17, 2008, at the Chicha Shack on Lincoln Way. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Alissa Atkinson

A cultural tradition popular among college students, smoking hookah at The Chicha Shack is one of the few establishments that welcomes students who are 18 years old.

More commonly known to students as the hookah bar, The Chicha Shack, 2418 Lincoln Way, welcomes individuals 18 year of age and older into its doors.

Ryan David, junior in computer engineering, is a biweekly guest at the Chicha Shack. David described the atmosphere as being “very relaxed and friendly.”

He said the service is prompt and the employees are nice.

“The comfortable environment is what keeps me coming back,” David said. “I like to go there and sit on the couches and talk to the people there. Everyone is very friendly.”

The Chicha Shack, which is equipped with a full bar and menu, attracts “anywhere between 30 and 70 students any given weeknight,” said Mohamed Ali, owner of The Chicha Shack. Ali said The Chicha Shack offers free wireless Internet, so many students spend the weeknights relaxing and studying on their couches.

“On the weekends we have a full house all night,” he said. The bar’s capacity is 100, but people tend to come and go, so they typically see much higher numbers on the weekend nights.

Ali said employees are currently planning two events, one of which will involve the performance of a band at the bar.

“We have a belly dancer perform on Thursdays,” Ali said. “She teaches belly dancing classes at Iowa State, and she and her students perform and teach a few moves to the guests.”

Ali said they play a variety of music to appeal to students with different tastes.

“We play music from the American Top 40, as well as Spanish and hip-hop,” Ali said.

He said many students dance at the bar on the weekends, so the style of music will cater to them, whereas on the weeknights, the environment is much more laid back and a variety of cultural music is played.

David said the price of the hookah is “very reasonable” and enjoys the variety of flavors. Each hookah is $15, and up to five people can share a hookah.

“My favorite flavor last year was mixed fruit and mango. Last night I tried pineapple orange, which was really good,” David said.

Ali said watermelon and double apple are currently the most popular flavors of hookah. Peach, mint, grape, lemon and cherry are also common favorites of guests at The Chicha Shack.

“We get at least one new flavor every three months,” Ali said.

Some may overlook health effects of Hookah

Although The Chicha Shack may be a fun place to go, the health risk of smoking hookah is often misunderstood. When asked about the health risks of smoking hookah, Ali declined to comment.

In a June 2004 study, Jane Henley, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, published an article titled “Association Between Exclusive Pipe Smoking and Mortality From Cancer and Other Diseases,” which found that individuals who smoked water pipes had five times the risk of lung cancer as nonsmokers.

According to an article written by Mayo Clinic pulmonologist Edward Rosenow, M.D., titled “Hookah smoking: Is it safer than cigarettes?,” water-filtered smoke can damage the lungs and heart as much as cigarette smoke.

In a 60-minute hookah session, smokers are exposed to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.

A history of hookah

According to www.hookahcompany.com, the hookah tradition is one of the oldest and most popular traditions, dating back at least 500 years, when hookah originated in India’s northwestern provinces.

In Israel, smoking hookah is common among nearly all young adults. Hookah use is also common in Afghani and Arabic homes, where families will commonly smoke after a large meal or at a family gathering.