Hookahs or water pipes have been a growing sensation, especially among youth and college students. The Monitoring the Future survey reported 18.5 percent of American high school seniors in 2011 have used hookah in the past year. Other studies have reported that 22 to 40 percent of university students in the United States have used hookah in the past year.
A 2012 study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preventing Chronic Disease found that many hookah smokers believe smoking hookah have less harmful effects than smoking cigarettes. According to the researchers, young people believe that smoking hookah has less nicotine and is less toxic than cigarettes because of the water filter in the mechanism. Hookah smoke, however, carries the same amount of harmful tobacco-related effects as cigarette smoke like lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight, and periodontal disease.
The World Health Organization’s report showed “a typical 1-hour long session water pipe session involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled with a single cigarette, even after it has been passed through water, the smoke produced by a waterpipe contains a high level of toxic compounds including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).”
The researchers of the 2012 Preventing Chronic Disease claim that since legislative policies restricting the affordability, accessibility, and marketing helped cut youth cigarette smoking by nearly half between 1998 and 2009, similar strategies could be applied to hookah in order to cut hookah smoking.
“Predictors of youth hookah smoking are similar to predictors of youth cigarette smoking. Therefore, successful strategies for reducing cigarette use among youth and young adults should also work for hookah use”, they noted. The researchers also claim that flavor bans for pipe tobacco may reduce the hookah’s appeal to the youth because flavor shisha (the molasses-based tobacco blend smoked in a hookah) “mask the harshness of tobacco and makes it easier for new users to start using tobacco.”