Rise In High School Seniors Using Hookah Smoking Products
July 7, 2014

Rise In High School Seniors Using Hookah Smoking Products

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

As smoking cigarettes becomes less and less socially acceptable, other forms of smoking appear to be on the rise. A new report in the journal Pediatrics has found about 20 percent of high school seniors have used a hookah in the past year.

The new research was based on information from Monitoring the Future (MTF), an ongoing nationwide study of the actions, attitudes, and values of American high school students. The survey includes 130 public and private schools throughout 48 states, the equivalent of about 15,000 high school seniors being examined annually.

The study looked at information from more than 5,500 students who were asked about their hookah use from 2010 to 2012. The scientists discovered use of the device in the last 12 months was almost one in five high school seniors.

"What we find most interesting is that students of higher socioeconomic status appear to be more likely to use hookah," said Joseph J. Palamar, an assistant professor of population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). "Surprisingly, students with more educated parents or higher personal income are at high risk for use. 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."

"When it comes to cigarette smoking, at least now, we tend to think of it as more associated with lower socioeconomic status and lower parental education," Palamar told USA Today.

As a device that uses water to filter tobacco smoke, hookahs have been associated with Eastern cultures for centuries and have recently been gaining popularity with young urbanites. The new study showed those students who smoked cigarettes, admitted to using alcohol or illicit substances were more likely to use hookahs.

"Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the US," said study author Dr. Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatrics and of Environmental Medicine at the NYULMC. "Cigarette use has decreased by 33 percent in the past decade in the US, while the use of alternative tobacco products such as hookahs has increased an alarming 123 percent. This is especially worrisome given the public misperception that hookahs are a safe alternative to cigarettes whereas evidence suggests that they are even more damaging to health than are cigarettes."

Palamar pointed out that hookah use appears to be more sporadic and ritualistic than cigarette use ever was – and “not everyone inhales.”

"However, times are beginning to change," Palamar said. "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."

The study team said normalization might cause increases in use, and possibly negative consequences associated with repeated use.

"This portends a potential epidemic of a lethal habit growing among upper and middle class adolescents," Weitzman said.

The study team also called for educators and public health officials to raise understanding about the dangers of hookah smoking.


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