Hookah bars have strategically set the minimum age to enter at 18, tempting young adults who are not quite grown up in the eyes of the law (at least not enough for a rum and Coke) to come in, kick back, and inhale different smoky flavors. Clusters of Baltimore college students gather at popular pipe-centric establishments such as Ice in Towson – where you can sometimes find a two-for-one special – Arabian Nights at the Inner Harbor, and Red Maple on North Charles, which doubles as restaurant/bar. First two don’t serve alcohol, but places like Ice let you bring your own alcohol. The hangouts are often filled with young hipsters, youngster hippies and artsy types, from 18 to their early twenties. At restaurant/hookah hybrids, you can usually spy a more sophisticated crowd of 30 and 40-year-old regulars, too.

But as usual, with every pleasure comes sacrifice, and even a so-called “water pipe” packs real risk. What most of these hookah-smoking scholars may not know (or choose not to register, unless they read the scoop last week in The NY Times) is that the fruity, flavored smoke contains tar and metals just like cigarette smoke and can be linked to the exact same types of diseases. Not to mention hookah smoke has super high levels of carbon monoxide, from being heated with charcoal. The worst part is that the sharing of hoses puts you at risk of contracting herpes and other contagious ailments. Gross.

But to each his own I guess. Unless universities start banning hookahs, like they’ve started to in Connecticut, Louisiana, and Oregon, over eighteen-ers will likely continue socializing over the exotic water pipe. Until the next terrible-for-you trend comes to town.

Have you partaken of the hip hookah and, if so, what’s your experience been?