Shisha invades the US, with 20 percent of young adults smoking regularly
Researchers have pointed out that shisha is addictive and causes similar health effects as cigarettes, yet wealthier and higher-educated Americans tend to smoke shisha rather than cigarettes. (Shutterstock)
Hookah use has taken off among Americans in recent years, with almost one in five young adults using the water pipes, a new study says.
New York University investigators analyzed US government data on tobacco use and found 12 percent of Americans had used a hookah - known in the Middle East as shisha or argileh - during their lifetime.
They also found that the rate of current hookah use among adults ages 18 to 24 is nearly 20 percent -- similar to their rate of current cigarette use.
"Hookah is addictive, causes similar health effects as cigarettes, and results in substantially higher inhalation of smoke than cigarette smoking, yet misperceptions persist that its use is safer than cigarette smoking," say researchers led by Dr. Michael Weitzman. He is a professor in the departments of pediatrics and environmental medicine at NYU.
Increases in hookah smoking are highest among single, adult males, and those with higher education and income. In contrast, cigarette smoking is more common among those who are poorer and have low levels of education, the researchers noted.
The study -- published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research -- also found significant variations in hookah use rates by state and region.
The findings "will be useful for guiding the development of strategies and regulatory policies to prevent hookah use in the future as the characteristics of hookah users are different from cigarette smokers," Weitzman said in a university news release.