One out of four college women in the US are gravitating towards the hookah, which originated in India and Persia, and many of them mistakenly believe that it is safer than cigarettes, says a US study.
Researchers from the Miriam Hospital's Center for Behavioural and Preventive Medicine found the more alcohol women consumed, the more likely they were to try the hookah, while women who used marijuana engaged in hookah smoking more frequently than their peers, the journal of Psychology of Addictive Behaviours reports. The phenomenon was mostly prevalent among the first year college students.
Many of them also mistakenly believe that hookah is safer than cigarettes, even though its use has been linked to many of the same diseases caused by cigarette smoking, including lung cancer, respiratory illness and periodontal disease.
Hookah smoking is a social activity during which users smoke tobacco filtered through a water pipe. Their tobacco mixtures vary in composition, with some having candy and fruit flavours to help mask the smoke's harshness, according to a Miriam Hospital statement.
"The popularity and social nature of hookah smoking, combined with the fact that college freshmen are more likely to experiment with risky behaviour, could set the stage for a potential public health issue, given what we know about the health risks of hookah smoking," said Robyn L. Fielder, research intern at The Miriam Hospital's Center, who led the study.
As many as 483 first-year female college students completed an initial survey about their pre-college hookah use, followed by 12 monthly online surveys about their experience with hookah smoking. Of the 343 participants who did not report pre-college hookah use, 23 percent (79 students) tried hookah tobacco smoking during their first year of college.
An analysis revealed alcohol consumption predicted the likelihood of hookah use, while marijuana use and certain personality styles, such as a higher level of impulsivity and a strong tendency to compare oneself to others, predicted frequency of use.