tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cheap cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.


Bay Area hooked on hookah

On a recent Friday night in Palo Alto, three young women sat at a sidewalk table outside an old brick building that once housed Mills the Florist, a shop that has gone up in smoke. In its place is Da Hookah Spot, a lounge where people gather to puff flavored tobacco from a water pipe for hours at a time.

“It’s good, it’s low key, but you’re still out,” said Lerna Kazazic, 18, a psychology major at Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont.

Her tablemate, Sara Galatolo, 22, a graduate student at Santa Clara University, agreed.

“It’s kind of a European vibe,” she said, “like going to cafes and hanging out.”

Across the Bay Area and nation in recent years, hookah lounges have become increasingly popular gathering places for college students too young to drink legally, transplanted Middle Easterners looking to indulge in a familiar pastime and even for veterans of the Iraq war, who learned to enjoy hookahs while overseas. The practice is believed to have originated in India and spread to the Middle East hundreds of years ago.

Hookah lounges in the Bay Area tend to cluster around universities such as Stanford, although there are many in San Francisco - from the Tenderloin to the Haight-Ashbury. High-tech workers and engineers such as Mohammad Aldossary, 25, a Stanford graduate student in petroleum engineering from Saudi Arabia, enjoy them, too.

“It’s more fun to be in the social atmosphere here,” he said at Da Hookah Spot. “I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I smoke from a hookah pipe once or twice a week.”

The lounges are often classified as tobacco shops, allowing them to get around California’s 1998 statewide ban on smoking in bars. Most cities prohibit the sale of food in such establishments. The sale of nonalcoholic beverages, however, is typically allowed as long as they do not make up a significant portion of revenues, and alcohol is prohibited, according to officials at the city attorney’s offices in Palo Alto, Hayward and San Francisco.

To smoke, individuals and groups of people sit at a tall pipe with hoses containing removable plastic mouthpieces. The pipe’s top contains a bowl of tobacco covered in foil and topped with hot charcoal that heats the tobacco when air is sucked through the hoses. The smoke is cooled through the water, resulting in a smooth inhalation of smoke flavored with a fruity essence, such as mango, watermelon or lemon mint. A bowl can last for 45 minutes and costs from $10 to $22, making it a cost-effective form of entertainment.

But like alcohol and tobacco, hookah smoke carries health risks. Proprietors claim that the tobacco, called shisha, is lower in tar and nicotine than mass-market cigarettes, and that the water filters out toxins, but the American Cancer Society’s Web site states that “the water does not filter out many of the toxins. In fact, hookah smoke has been shown to contain concentrations of toxins, such as carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar, and heavy metals, that are as high or higher than are seen with cigarette smoke.”

It further warns that users risk lung cancer and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, aspergillus (a lung fungus) and helicobacter (which causes stomach ulcers) from sharing pipes or from the fruity tobacco itself.

Palo Alto’s hookah lounge is run by Paul Zumot, a mechanical space engineer from Seattle who said he was laid off by Boeing after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He and a brother also run Hookah Nites in San Jose’s bustling First Street corridor, which is dotted with restaurants and nightclubs.

There, on the same Friday night, Ryan Voeltz, 19, a meteorology student at San Jose State, and Kimberly Leventhal, 18, a student at Cal State East Bay, smoked watermelon tobacco, calling it an “occasional treat.”

“We don’t have to drive all the way to San Francisco to have a night out,” she said. “And it tastes good.”

In Hayward, Tarun Gupta opened Palace Hookah Lounge on Mission Boulevard wedged next to a mosque and a Pakistani restaurant. He plays “Monday Night Football” and Sunday NFL games and hires a DJ on weekends to provide entertainment for up to 60 people, who pack the space no bigger than a large living room.

“Some nights, you don’t want to go to a dance club and you don’t always want to go to a sports bar,” said Sylvester Singh, 24, a recent graduate of Cal State East Bay who works at Kaiser Permanente in Hayward. “Me and my friends come four or five times a week. It’s nice to go where everybody knows your name.”

The hookah hookup

Da Hookah Spot: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.-Thurs., until 3 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Must be 18. Credit cards accepted. 235 University Ave., Palo Alto. (650) 330-0654.

Hookah Nites Café: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.-Wed., until 1:30 a.m. Thurs. and 2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Must be 18. 371 S. First St., San Jose. (408) 286-0800.

Palace Hookah Lounge: 7 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Thurs., until 2 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 1 p.m.-midnight Sun. Must be 18. 25180 Mission Blvd., Hayward. (510) 889-8922.

E-mail Carolyne Zinko at [email protected]

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