Hookah Use Widespread Among College Students

Hookah users believe waterpipe tobacco less harmful than cigarettes

THURSDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking waterpipe tobacco, or hookah, is an increasingly popular activity among U.S. college students, and tends to be falsely perceived as being safer than cigarette smoking, according to a study published online Feb. 25 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Erin L. Sutfin, Ph.D., of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues investigated the prevalence and correlates of hookah use among college students. A sample of 3,770 students from eight universities in North Carolina completed a Web-based survey in 2008 detailing alcohol use and other health-risk behaviors, including the use of marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs.

The researchers found that 40 percent of college students surveyed reported ever having smoked tobacco from a waterpipe, and 17 percent reported use in the past 30 days. Current hookah users were more likely to be male or freshman. Current waterpipe use was also associated with other health-risk behaviors like cigarette smoking, alcohol use, marijuana use, and use of other illicit drugs. Students who were current hookah users were also more likely to perceive smoking tobacco in a waterpipe as less harmful than cigarettes, and were more likely to have a commercial waterpipe venue near their campus.

"These results suggest that waterpipe tobacco smoking is a popular activity among college students and is almost as common as cigarette smoking. Given the substantial health risks, waterpipe tobacco smoking should be considered a significant public health concern," the authors write.

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