Hookah use is increasing dramatically among U.S. teens, according to a study in Pediatrics, published online Monday and in the August issue.
The study, “Hookah Use Among U.S. High School Seniors,” found the annual prevalence of hookah use was 18 percent, based on a national survey of 5,540 high school seniors.
“Hookah use is not less harmful or addictive than cigarettes,” said Joseph Palamar, the lead author and assistant professor of population health at New York University.
“There is a common misperception that the water in hookah filters out the bad things, like nicotine … but that simply isn’t true,” he said Monday.
Students who smoked cigarettes, and those who had ever used alcohol, marijuana or other illicit substances, were more likely to use the hookah.
Unexpectedly, researchers also found that students whose parents had higher levels of education, and those with higher incomes, were more likely to use hookah.
If there is any silver lining to the upsurge, it’s that hookah tends to be a once-in-a-while habit, unlike cigarettes.