A new study shows nearly a quarter of female college freshman try smoking hookah during their freshman year of college. The study, conducted by The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, comes on the heels of other studies that show an increase in the synthetic pot use and bath salts used to get teens high.
Experimenting with hookah
In the study, 483 first-year female college students completed an initial survey about their precollege hookah use, followed by 12 monthly online surveys about their experience with hookah smoking.
Of the 343 participants who did not report precollege hookah use, 23 percent (79 students) tried hookah tobacco smoking during their first year of college.
Fielder says the findings corroborate prior research showing strong correlations between hookah and other substance use, but their research is the first to show that alcohol and marijuana use are prospectively related to hookah initiation.
“The popularity and social nature of hookah smoking, combined with the fact that college freshmen are more likely to experiment with risky behavior, could set the stage for a potential public health issue, given what we know about the health risks of hookah smoking,” said lead author Robyn L. Fielder, M.S., a research intern at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
The unperceived dangers
Researchers say the findings are troubling since hookah smoking rates are on the rise among young adults. Many college students also mistakenly believe hookah smoking is safer than cigarettes, even though hookah use has been linked to many of the same diseases caused by cigarette smoking including cancer.
“Youth tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers use substances, and because it’s important to fit in with one’s peers, this can lead to greater risk-taking,” said Fielder. “Our research suggests prevention and intervention efforts should jointly target all substance use, including hookah, alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes, to optimize the public health impact.”