There is a misconception that smoking out of a hookah—a water pipe that uses flavored tobacco or tobacco-like products—is safer than smoking regular cigarettes, and this may be leading to an increase in this method of smoking, especially among teens.
Nationally representative data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Monitoring the Future survey from 2010 to 2012 found that 18% of high school seniors had used a hookah in the past year.
This number increased even more from 2012 to 2013: 21.4% of seniors reported using a hookah in that time period
In contrast, in 2010, the CDC reported that 17% of male high school seniors and 15% of their female peers had used a hookah in the past year. And 2011 federal data reported that only about 8% of teens had ever tried a hookah.
This information was published ahead of print on the journal Pediatrics website in July (Palamar JJ et al, Pediatr 2014;134:1-8) The data set used included survey results from more than 5,500 American high school seniors.
Factors that increased odds of use included being white and male, having higher socioeconomic status, and being a user of alcohol and other drugs. Youths from urban areas were also more likely to use a hookah than those from non-urban areas.
The greatest risk factor was being a current cigarette smoker (although a history of any cigarette use increased risk).
This research lessens some of the excitement about the dropping rate of teen cigarette smoking, as researchers say that many teens are simply switching to other ways of using tobacco, such as smokeless tobacco and hookahs. When asking teens about tobacco use, we should remember to ask about all ways of consuming tobacco, not just cigarettes.