To determine just how popular hookah use is among teenagers in the US, the researchers of this latest study – including Jospeh J. Palamar, an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) in New York, NY – analyzed data from an ongoing annual study called Monitoring the Future, which looks at the values, behaviors and attitudes of around 15,000 American high school students.
Researchers found that almost 1 in 5 adolescents – 18% – engage in hookah smoking.
The team included 5,540 study participants of an average age of 18 who were questioned about their hookah use between 2010 and 2012.
The researchers found that in the past 12 months, almost 1 in 5 adolescents had used hookahs. Furthermore, they were surprised to find that hookah use was more common among students who were of higher socioeconomic status.
“Surprisingly, students with more educated parents or higher personal income are at high risk for use,” says Palamar. “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.”
In addition, they found that students who smoked cigarettes and who had ever used alcohol, marijuana and other illegal substances were more likely to use hookahs.
The researchers say their findings raise concern, particularly since there is increasing evidence about the health risks associated with hookah smoking. Study co-author Dr. Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatrics at NYULMC, says:
“Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the US. Cigarette use has decreased by 33% in the past decade in the US, while the use of alternative tobacco products, such as hookahs, has increased an alarming 123%.
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.”