A recent report in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease finds that almost one-fifth of the nation’s 12th-graders report using hookahs – large water-pipes that are commonly found in bars and lounges – to smoke shisha, a form of flavored tobacco that carries many of the same health risks found in cigarettes.
While researchers note that youth cigarette smoking has dwindled by half from 1998 to 2009, the report indicates that a growing number of adolescents are using hookahs to smoke flavored tobacco. Researchers found that about 18.5 percent of high school seniors smoked shisha last year, which is often sweetened to taste like fruits, coffee and even candies.
Although the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act outlawed the manufacturing of most flavored cigarettes, the federal ban does not cover other tobacco products, including the varieties normally used in hookah lounges. To deter young people from using hookahs, the authors of the report suggest raising the overall price of tobacco – specifically, “equalizing” federal tax rates for cigarettes and pipe tobacco – as well as placing warning labels on shisha and expanding the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act to outlaw the shipping of tobacco varieties commonly used in hookahs by the U.S. Postal Service.
“Predictors of youth hookah smoking are similar to predictors of youth cigarette smoking,” the report concludes. “Therefore, successful strategies for reducing cigarette use among youth and young adults should also work for hookah use.”