Around 18 percent of high school seniors in the United States admit to have taken up smoking hookah even as figures show that the use of cigarette has declined sharply among the youth.
Researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) have identified how prevalent Hookah use is and which teens are most likely to be using it. The study used data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nation-wide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students.
Hookah, an ancient form of smoking where charcoal-heated tobacco or non-tobacco based shisha smoke is passed through water before inhalation, is rapidly gaining popularity among adolescents in the US. The researchers found those students who smoked cigarettes, and those who had ever used alcohol, marijuana or other illicit substances were more likely to use hookah.
The MTF survey examined data from the 5,540 students (modal age = 18) who were asked about Hookah use from 2010-2012, and it was found that the annual prevalence of hookah was nearly 1 in 5 high school seniors.
As per Dr. Joseph J. Palamar, the most interesting finding was that the students of higher socioeconomic status, more educated parents or higher personal income were more likely to use hookah.
Study co-author Michael Weitzman added that cigarette use had decreased by 33 percent in the past decade in the US, while the use of alternative tobacco products such as hookahs had increased an alarming 123 percent. This was 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.
Researchers conclude that the increased normalization might lead to increases in use, and possibly adverse consequences associated with repeated use, which portends a potential epidemic of a lethal habit growing among upper and middle class adolescents.
The study is due to be published in August 2014 edition of Pediatrics.