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One-Third of all College Students Report Hookah Smoking Pitt Study Finds

PITTSBURGH, June 6 – Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. college students has smoked tobacco from a hookah, according to the findings of a large nationwide study led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“Certain sociodemographic characteristics, such as male gender and fraternity membership, were associated with hookah tobacco smoking,” said lead author Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of the school’s Program for Research on Media and Health.  “However, the most striking finding was how consistent rates of hookah tobacco smoking were across factors such as geographic region, university size, and university setting.”

The findings, published in the June issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, are alarming, the authors note, because hookah tobacco smoke contains most of the same toxicants as cigarette smoke.  A recent World Health Organization report esti¬mates that a hookah tobacco smoker may inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker inhaling 100 or more cigarettes.

In the study, researchers surveyed more than 100,000 students from 152 U.S. universities participating in the National College Health Assessment in 2008 and 2009. Of the sample, 30.5% reporting ever using a hookah to smoke tobacco, compared with 34.6% for cigarettes, 28.6% for cigars, and 10.6% for smokeless tobacco. 

“Another interesting finding was that, of those who had smoked tobacco from a hookah in the past 30 days, 51% of them had not smoked cigarettes in those 30 days,” said Dr. Primack. “This suggests that hookah smoking may be attracting many people who would otherwise not have been tobacco users.”

Collaborators on the study were Ariel Shensa, M.A.; Kevin H. Kim, Ph.D.; and Mary Carroll, B.A., all of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Mary Hoban, Ph.D., and  E. Victor Leino, Ph.D., both of American College Health Association; Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University; Kathleen Hoke Dachille, J.D., University of Maryland Francis  King Carey School of Law; and Michael J. Fine, M.D., M.Sc., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

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