A new study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows nearly 1 in 3 college students have admitted to smoking tobacco from a hookah, a single or multi-stemmed instrument in which flavored smoke passes through a water basin before it's inhaled.
Brian Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics, said the study's findings were somewhat surprising.
"It actually turned out to be the most common in the western United States, followed by the eastern, followed by the south, followed by the mid-west — but the interesting thing was how relatively prevalent it was among all of those groups," Primack said.
Researchers looked at more than 100,000 college students from U.S. universities that participated in the National College Health Survey in 2008 and 2009. The study found 30.5% reported using a hookah to smoke tobacco at least once compared to 34.6% who have smoked cigarettes. 28.6% said they smoked cigars, and 10.6% used smokeless tobacco at least once.
Primack said although this study was limited to college students, it is possible that hookah smoking is popular among others.
"A lot of hookah bars are popping up in college towns. That doesn't mean that other young adults, for example, and other demographics — people in the military, people in other types of schools, two-year schools, and that type of thing — it doesn't mean that they're not also using," Primack said.
The authors noted the figures reported are alarming, as a hookah tobacco smoker could inhale the same amount of smoke as 100 cigarettes in one session. Primack said some lawmakers have failed to recognize this.
"Many different municipalities, states, and local areas are passing strong anti-cigarette legislation and often those laws, either unknowingly or not, are exempting hookah tobacco establishments," Primack said.