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More Teens Smoking With Hookahs

I suppose this could fall into the “everything old is new" category. A recent study says that hookah smoking is gaining in popularity among teens. Actually, I thought hookahs went...

I suppose this could fall into the “everything old is new" category. A recent study says that hookah smoking is gaining in popularity among teens. Actually, I thought hookahs went out with the sixties, but apparently they are making a dramatic come back. In fact, the study says that nearly 1 in 5 high school seniors used the popular water pipe sometime during the last year.

The study’s findings reflected earlier research that showed teens of families in the higher economic strata were more likely to use hookahs as well as males, white students, those who already smoke cigarettes, and those who had previously used alcohol, marijuana or other illicit substances.

The national data sampled 5,540 high-school seniors between 2010 and 2012.

"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," says lead study author Joseph Palamar, an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center. That was the exact opposite for students most likely to engage in using hookahs, he says.

"Given the cost of frequenting hookah bars, it is not surprising that wealthier students, as indicated by higher weekly income, are more regular visitors, although it remains unknown what proportion of hookah use occurs in hookah bars versus in homes or other noncommercial settings," the study noted.

Data for the study came from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey, which recently reported that hookah smoking among high-school seniors in the past year rose to 21%.

Many people think that hookah smoking is less harmful than cigarette smoking. But that’s not true says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It notes that many of the same cigarette smoking health risks apply to hookah smoking.

Other research shows hookahs — which use specially made tobacco known as shisha, available in a variety of fruit and candy flavors — deliver tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide in even higher doses than cigarettes.

A 2005 World Health Organization report said that a water-pipe smoker may inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes.

Some non-tobacco hookah products claim that they can be used without the health risks of tobacco products. The CDC says studies of tobacco-based and herbal versions of shisha show that smoke from both types "contain carbon monoxide and other toxic agents known to increase the risks for smoking-related cancers, heart disease, and lung disease."

Another myth associated with hookahs is that the water used in a hookah acts as a filter to remove harmful ingredients. Not so say heath experts.

Many modern hookahs have imaginative designs and are brightly colored. They are coolly intended to attract a younger generation of customers. 

There are also new products such as electronic smoking devices known as hookah pens, hookah sticks and e-hookahs that have recently come on the market may be the next step in "normalizing" hookah use and making it seem like the cool thing to try and many are falling for it.

So, you might want to talk to your teen about hookahs and hear what they have to say. I’m betting there are a lot of misconceptions about the health risks of hookah smoking especially if it contains non-tobacco products.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Michelle Healy, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/07/hookah-use-high-school-seniors/12074889/

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More