Sharing a Hookah Not Smart

Waterpipe tobacco usage has significant following among college students

(RxWiki News) College students' rates of smoking cigarettes has been declining, but the same cannot be said for an even more ancient way of getting a tobacco high: the waterpipe.

A recent study has found that use of the waterpipe, or hookah, is the second highest way university students use tobacco.

"Any tobacco use can damage your health - even via waterpipe / hookah."

Brian Primack, MD, PhD, of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led a study looking at the prevalence of waterpipe smoking among US university students based on a nationwide survey.

Primack's team used the data from 105,012 respondents at 152 universities who participated in the National College Health Assessment during the 2008-2009 school year.

They primarily measured the numbers of students reporting use of the waterpipe in the previous month or ever.

A total of 32,013 students reported having ever smoked tobacco through a waterpipe, nearly a third of all the students who responded to the survey.

Overall rate for tobacco use by hookah was about half of the rate for cigarette smoking: 8.4 percent use waterpipes compared to 16.8 percent who smoke cigarettes.

The rate for cigar smoking use was 7.4 percent, and 3.5 percent reported using smokeless tobacco.

Yet inhaling tobacco through a hookah is not limited to current cigarette smokers - just over half (51 percent) of waterpipe users don't currently smoke cigarettes.

Waterpipes were reported across all the colleges and demographics of students, but those who use it the most often tend to be younger, white, male, attending a nonreligious school in the western US and involved in a fraternity or sorority.

The authors concluded that waterpipe use should not be ignored in assessing tobacco use among college students.

"Because waterpipe use affects groups with a wide variety of individual and institutional characteristics, it should be included with other forms of tobacco in efforts related to tobacco surveillance and intervention," the authors wrote.

The study was published online May 28 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and a grant from the Steven Manners Memorial Fund. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 11, 2012