FRIDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one-fifth of U.S. college students who took part in a survey regularly use hookahs (water pipes), and many of them mistakenly believe that hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking.
The Internet-based survey sent to a random sample of students at eight North Carolina colleges and universities found that 40.3 percent reported having ever smoked tobacco from a hookah, nearly as many students (46.6 percent) who said they had ever smoked a cigarette. Nearly 25 percent of respondents said they were current users of cigarettes and 17.4 percent said they were current users of hookahs.
The investigators found that among those most likely to use hookahs were first-year students and males. In addition, the results suggested a link between use of hookahs, cigarettes and marijuana, a history of using illegal drugs, and alcohol use in the 30 days before the survey.
In general, hookah smokers tended to incorrectly believe that this activity was safer than cigarette smoking, according to the researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
"The smoke produced by hookahs is a very mild smoke that may be appealing to non-cigarette smokers as a starter product," study author Erin L. Sutfin, an assistant professor in the social sciences and health policy department, said in a medical center news release.
"Likely because of the pleasant aroma and taste, users may inhale more deeply over a longer period of time. This results in hookah smokers actually inhaling a larger volume of tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do," she noted.
"This study highlights hookah smoking as a considerable public health concern, especially among young adults. Going forward, we need to develop interventions to address this risky behavior," Sutfin said.
The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hookahs.