Hookah use up sharply in California

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Hookah use is establishing roots in the strongly anti-tobacco state of California, says a new study, with usage rates increasing more than 40% over a few years.

Hookah involves smoking from a water pipe and hose. Specially made tobacco, often flavored, is heated and smoke passes through water and a rubber hose into a mouthpiece. Studies so far suggest that hookah smoking carries many of the same health risks assmoking cigarettes.

Researchers from UC San Diego and San Diego State University examined data from the California Tobacco Survey. It showed 7.9% of male adults said they had smoked hookah in 2005 compared to 11.2% in 2008. Among adult women, 1.9% had smoked hookah in 2005 and 2.8% in 2008.


But among men ages 18 to 24 in 2008, almost one-quarter of all men said they had used hookah. Hookah appears most common among young educated, non-Hispanic whites and cigarette smokers.

The report represents the largest survey of hookah use in a population collected at two points in time.

“The increase in hookah use in California is concerning, especially considering the rapid increase over a three-year period in a state that is leading the nation in tobacco control,” the authors wrote.

Since cigarette smoking is banned throughout California in public spaces, the fact that hookah is permitted in special lounges may lead some people to believe that hookah is safe, the authors said.

The report is published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

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