Hookah: An Adolescent Trend More Dangerous Than Smoking

Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A lot of time, energy and resources have been spent on raising awareness about the perils of smoking cigarettes and for rightful reason — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cigarette smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths in America each year. But one tobacco-related recreational activity has been overlooked in terms of health risks: hookah.

Hookah — also known as shisha and argileh — is a water pipe that used to smoke flavored tobacco. The flavors can come in a wide array of options ranging from chocolate and coconut to watermelon and apple. Smoking hookah is part of the culture in the Middle East and the Arab world, where hookahs are believed to have originated.

But a recent study from researchers at New York University (NYU) found that hookah activity has reached an all-time high in the United States: roughly one in five high school seniors — that’s 18 percent — smoke hookahs. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study surveyed 15,000 high school seniors from public and private schools around the country.

“Eighteen percent of students reported hookah use in the past year. Compared with white students, black students were at lower odds for use,” found the researchers of the study. “High parent education increased the odds for use, and student weekly income from a job of >$50/week or $11 to $50 per week from other sources also increased odds for use. Males and urban students were also at higher odds for use, as were users of alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit substances. Former cigarette smokers were at higher risk, and current smokers were at highest risk for use.”

The findings from the NYU study corroborate a recent CDC report, which found that while cigarette smoking was on a decline, other tobacco products (say, cigars and e-cigarettes) are on a rise. In fact, a 2012 report found a whopping 123 percent increase in smokable tobacco products like pipes and cigars.