California may be among the leading states in tobacco control, but it appears that the use of hookahs—water pipes for smoking tobacco—have been flying under the radar of policymakers for several years.
In fact, a new study from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine found that between 2005 and 2008 hookah use among adults in the state increased by more than 40%.
“Though public indoor cigarette smoking is banned throughout California, hookah use is permitted in designated lounges,” lead investigator Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy, associate professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in the UCSD Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, said in a prepared statement. “This may create the impression that hookah is a safer alternative to cigarettes, which is simply not true.”
For the study, which appeared online Aug. 18 in the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers examined data from the California Tobacco Surveys, which are conducted statewide under Dr. Al-Delaimy’s direction. By 2008, hookah use in California was much higher among young adults aged 18-24 years (25% percent among men, 10% among women) than it was among all adults (11% among men, 3% percent among women). Rates of hookah smoking were highest among non-Hispanic whites who had at least some college education.
“More specific studies are warranted but we urge policymakers to consider laws that would ban hookah lounges, thus eliminating the implication that hookah smoking is safer and more socially acceptable than cigarette smoking,” Dr. Al-Delaimy said.
Dr. Al-Delaimy and his colleague, Joshua R. Smith, Ph.D., discussed the study’s findings in a video that can be viewed here.
Data collection for the study was funded by the California Department of Health Services.
— Doug Brunk (on Twitter@dougbrunk)
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