Jul 15

One in Five High School Students Smoked Hookah in the Past Year, Says Study

About one in five American high school students has smoked hookah in the past year, according to astudy by New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) published online inPediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics on July 7.

Using data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nation-wide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, researchers spoke with 5,540 high school seniors and found that 20.2 percent of males and 16 percent of females surveyed used hookah. Hookah is an ancient form of smoking in which a herbal material that can be tobacco or non-tobacco based, called shisha, is heated by a piece of charcoal and passed through water before being inhaled through a tube.

The study found that hookah use is more prevalent in students of a higher socio-economic status living in urban areas: those who have parents that are highly educated and who earn more than $50 per week. Teens surveyed said that frequenting trendy hookah bars are socially acceptable and legal, unlike cigarette smoking, alcohol or illicit drug use.

“Surprisingly, students with more educated parents or higher personal income are at high risk for use,”said Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). “We also found that hookah use is more common in cities, especially big cities. So hookah use is much different from cigarette use, which is more common in non-urban areas.”

Although cigarette use is declining among American youths, research shows that teens are turning to “ethnically linked” alternative tobacco products, such as hookahs, cigars and other smokeless tobacco products. However, research has shown that hookah delivers even higher doses of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide than cigarettes.

“Times are beginning to change,” said Palamar. “Now something called hookah pens, which are similar to e-cigarettes, are gaining popularity. While not all hookah pens contain nicotine, this new delivery method might normalize hookah use in everyday settings and bring use to a whole new level.

“These nifty little devices are likely to attract curious consumers, possibly even non-cigarette smokers,” he went on. “And unlike cigarettes, hookah comes in a variety of flavors and is less likely to leave users smelling like cigarette smoke after use. This may allow some users to better conceal their use from their parents or peers.”

In addition, teens who smoke occasionally or regularly were at higher odds for hookah use than those who reported just smoking once or twice in the past year. Use of other illicit substances was also significantly associated with hookah use, but to a weaker degree than smoking cigarettes, marijuana and drinking alcohol.

Both Palamar and study co-author Michael Weitzman, MD, a professor of Pediatrics and of Environmental Medicine at the NYULMC, stress that “it is crucial for educators and public health officials to fill in the gaps in public understanding about the harm of hookah smoking.”





College Students Perceive Hookah to be Safe and Socially Acceptable

Young College Women Increasingly Taking Up Hookah Smoking

Hookah Smoking: The Sweet Tobacco with Not-So-Sweet Risks