Waterpipe smoking on college campuses may contribute to growing public health problem

May 06, 2008

More and more U.S. college students are smoking tobacco using waterpipes – or hookahs – and it’s becoming a growing public health issue, according to a new study led by a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher.

The findings offer important insight into the prevalence and perceptions related to waterpipe tobacco smokers and are reported in the May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The article is also featured in an editorial in the same issue.

“These results should serve as an alarm bell to anyone interested in public health in the United States. Preventing tobacco-caused death and disease means remaining alert to new forms of tobacco smoking and then understanding the health risks of these new forms and communicating these risks to public health workers, policy makers, and to smokers themselves,” said principal investigator Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., associate professor in the VCU Department of Psychology.

In a hookah, tobacco is heated by charcoal, and the resulting smoke is passed through a water-filled chamber, cooling the smoke before it reaches the smoker. Some waterpipe users perceive this method of smoking tobacco as less harmful and addictive than cigarette smoking.

According to Eissenberg, current and prospective waterpipe tobacco smokers should be made aware that waterpipe tobacco smoking is not as benign as they might think. Waterpipe and cigarette smoke contains some of the same toxins -- disease-causing tar and carbon monoxide, as well as dependence-producing nicotine. Additionally, the exposure to these toxins through waterpipe smoking may be greater due to longer periods of use.

Further, smokers take more and larger puffs with waterpipes, leading to inhalation of 100 times more smoke from a single waterpipe use episode relative to a single cigarette.

Through a cross-sectional study, approximately 744 students, mostly between the ages of 18 and 21, completed an Internet survey that included questions about demographics, tobacco use, risk perceptions and perceived social acceptability.

The research team found that approximately 43 percent of those surveyed had smoked tobacco using a waterpipe in the past year; and 20 percent of them had smoked tobacco using a waterpipe in the past month. Users were more likely to perceive waterpipes as less harmful than cigarettes compared to those who had never used a waterpipe before.

“The data we report, along with data from other schools, show that waterpipe tobacco smoking is common on college campuses across the country. Thus, prevention messages, especially those that communicate the potential risks of waterpipe tobacco smoking, should focus on college campuses.”

In future studies, Eissenberg and his team hope to examine the prevalence of this method of tobacco use in a large, national sample of waterpipe tobacco smokers in the United States, and assess potential health risks and dependence-producing effects. In the future, researchers may be able to determine the role that waterpipe use among youth may serve as a ‘gateway’ for use of other tobacco products or psychoactive substances.

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University

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3 / 5 (2) May 07, 2008
Not a big issue with the relatively benign tobacco plant but this is the thin edge of the wedge - no doubt these characters will be switching to deadly marijuana and injesting more of the drug increasing crime and fatalities.

Arrests and imprisonment are the only answers!!
not rated yet Nov 27, 2008
NO NOT DEADLY MARIJUANA! I heard that the college students use marijuana in their suicide parties where they dare each other to kill themselves and when they smoke enough reefer cigarettes they acutally do it! Somebody stop this awful plauge upon society before the kids all turn to lawlessness and perhaps even BACKAWRDS BASEBALL CAPS!
not rated yet Nov 27, 2008
how is marijuana deadly? Marijuana isn%u2019t even close to as deadly as alcohol and why is it not blamed?%u2026. Because society has made it socially acceptable. But marijuana gets a bad rap because it%u2019s the most widely used drug for all age groups and is a cash cow for drug dealers%u2026 make it illegal and there cash cow is gone%u2026 common ppl read the latest articles on marijuana%u2026 its now thought it might decrease the risk of alzheimer's. its is proven to reduce pain for AID, MS patents and increase appetite for cancer patients. Smartin up, alcohol is the gateway drug not marijuana
not rated yet Jun 06, 2009
I really just laugh at the do-goody health crusade. My addictions and petty pleasures are a matter of great importance to everyone but me.

Hasn't anyone realized that all the negative health risks that come from tobacco have ABOSLUTELY nothing to do with nicotine, but everything to do with inhaling the products of combustion? A simple solution to the great international danger of smoking is simply to vaporize refined nicotine instead of smoking dried plants like our medieval grandparents.

Why isn't this extremely obvious?

(Begin 1935 radio voice)

And about that deadly narcotic Marihuana, the danger it presents to our civilization cannot be understated. It's nefarious properties are obviously why it's the drug of choice for jazz minstrels, Mexicans, and the seduction of white women. Inform your federal narcotics agent at the first sign of any of these undesireables entering the community.

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