Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors. Many users think it is less harmful; hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking. Hookah use by youth and college students is increasing.
Mary Rezk-Hanna, a UCLA nursing doctoral student and lead researcher for the study along with colleagues guided by the health belief model; a psychological model that attempts to explain and predict health behaviors, examined young adult hookah smokers’ perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and preferences toward hookah smoking and identify factors that may influence heavy (over three times a week) versus light hookah smoking.
For the study, researchers recruited participants from three hookah lounges in southern California. Participants were between 18 and 30 years of age and completed a short survey about their perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, initiation, and frequency of hookah smoking. Characteristics of light and heavy hookah smokers were compared using t tests and chi-square tests.
The results showed that among the 91 participants with an average age of 24 years, 65% were men, 24% reported smoking before the age of 18, and 73.6% of participants smoked more than once a week. Men were heavier smokers in comparison to women.
Among the participants 57% believed that hookah was not harmful to their health, 47% believed that the smoke gets filtered through water, and 35% ha said they assumed hookahs are not harmful because the tobacco is not addictive and does not contain nicotine had believed that fruit used to flavor the tobacco detoxify tobacco's harmful chemical and 16%.
Out of the participants 60% reported socialization as the main reason why they smoked hookah and 43% of hookah smokers said they believe the practice is indeed harmful, "socializing with friends appeared to outweigh health concerns.
According to Rezk-Hanna, "With hookah smoking on the rise, particularly among young adults, our goal was to identify factors influencing perceptions, attitudes and preferences toward hookah smoking,"
Past recent studies have shown that even as cigarette use continues to decline, hookah smoking is increasing, especially among college students.
In 2010, the Monitoring the Future survey found that among high school seniors in the United States, about 1 in 5 boys (17%) and 1 in 6 girls (15%) had used a hookah in the past year
Hookah smoking is the only form of tobacco use that is not regulated in the United States, and its exemption from clean indoor air legislation, such as the California Clean Air Act.
In their discussion the researchers write “It is critical to advocate for greater research on the health effects of hookah smoking and dissemination of these findings to the public, particularly to young adults.”
In closing Rezk-Hanna said "This study underscores the urgent importance of more research and campaigns to increase public knowledge on the dangers of hookah smoking, especially among young adults.” "Understanding the basis of these perceptions and beliefs is of particular relevance for helping healthcare professionals design effective prevention and intervention strategies that target young-adult hookah smokers."
This study was published in the July-August issue of the journal Nursing Research.