A man smokes hookah. (IANS)

Lack of Awareness: Students Consider Hookah Safer than Cigarette

The prevalence of hookah use among college students seems to be on rise, according to a recent study. The students consider hookah smoking safer than smoking cigarettes as they lack awareness about the risks associated with the former, says a US-based study.

Misperceptions associated with hookah use indicate a starting point for developing health behavior change interventions. “The biggest surprise was the misperception about the dangers of hookah smoking,” said principal investigator for the study Jaime Corvin, assistant professor in the University of South Florida (USF).

Future studies should investigate social and behavioral determinants of hookah use and determine the incidence of hookah use among college and high school students.

“In general, the students we surveyed thought it was safer than cigarette smoking. They did not know the risks,” Corvin added.

The researchers interviewed 478 undergraduate and graduate students at USF to evaluate their lifetime and current hookah use.

While tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States, more than half of the students surveyed (54.4 percent) reported using hookah at some point in their lives.

While more than half of the participants perceived hookah to be a safer alternative than cigarette smoking, 13 percent thought hookah was not harmful at all.

Regardless of their perception of harmfulness, 30 percent of those who never smoked hookah reported they would consider smoking it in the future.

The research suggests that future public health campaigns should address misunderstandings about the risks associated with hookah use as well as the regulation of such alternative nicotine-delivery devices.

Hookah smoking – which delivers nicotine and can be just as addictive as cigarettes – has been linked to lung, stomach and oral cancers, reduced lung function, decreased fertility and heart disease.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one 45-minute session of smoking hookah is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes,” Corvin said.

The study appeared in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. (IANS)

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