Last week, we looked to the “E-cig” as the newest delivery device for the addictive drug nicotine.  Today, Michele Healy looks at a new study in Pediatrics examining the rising popularity of a very old nicotine-delivery system among wealthy, young, white, males, high school students — the hookah:


Cigarette use is declining among young people at the same time that hookah smoking is gaining in popularity, says a new study that finds nearly 1 out 5 high school seniors used the water pipe device sometime in the last year.

The study’s findings confirm earlier research showing that students from families of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to use hookahs, as are males, white students, those who already smoke cigarettes, and those who had previously used alcohol, marijuana or other illicit substances, says the study published online today in Pediatrics.


Healy finds an expert who says that hookahs — which deliver flavored tobacco (“shisha”) and nicotine to the smoker — are not as safe as some of its fans might believe:

Although many users think that hookah smoking is less harmful than cigarette smoking, “extensively documented” research shows “that’s a total and complete misconception,” says Harold Farber, a pediatric pulmonologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, who studies tobacco use and adolescents. He was not involved in the new study.

“I’ve even encountered some younger physicians who thought it was true,” Farber says.

According to the CDC, hookah smoking has “many of the same health risks” as cigarette smoking. Other research shows hookahs — which use specially made tobacco known as shisha, available in a variety of fruit and candy flavors — deliver tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide in even higher doses than cigarettes.

A 2005 World Health Organization report said that a water-pipe smoker may inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes.