Affluence Increases Kids’ Risk of Hookah Use, Says Study

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that though teenagers in the United States are avoiding cigarette use in larger and larger numbers, the rates of hookah use for tobacco and other substances has been on the rise. In fact, about one in five seniors in high school report having used a hookah pipe, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, and those most likely to have smoked a hookah came from well-to-do families.

The fact that hookah use is replacing cigarettes was less surprising to researchers than the fact that kids from upper-middle-class families were the most likely to indulge in the behavior. They expected tobacco use to continue in a different form, but they didn’t expect kids from a higher socioeconomic group to be impacted so significantly, especially kids from parents with comparatively more education and higher incomes.

Researchers found that about 18 percent of the 5,500 high school seniors included in the poll had used hookahs in the past year. However, only 14 percent of teens who had jobs that brought in $10 or less per week reported use of hookahs as compared to 23 percent of teens with jobs that brought in more than $51 per week.

Additionally, the poll showed other traits of those more likely to use hookahs:

  • Male
  • Urban dwellers
  • From well-educated families
  • From high-earning parents

Also, teenagers who reported past use of alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs were more likely to report use of hookahs.

What Is the Risk of Hookah Use?

Teens who use hookahs to smoke tobacco may be more likely to start using cigarettes—or to use hookahs to smoke marijuana. Researchers are concerned that it may be a gateway to a lifelong addiction problem.

Joseph Palamar is an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center and the NYU Center for Drug Use and HIV Research in New York City, as well as an author of the study. He said, “What I find risky about hookah is [the] perception of it being safer than cigarettes. Adolescents need to be educated about the potential harms associated with [hookah] use, so they will be able to make informed decisions about use.”

Gateway to Substance Abuse

If your son has “graduated” from tobacco use in any form to the use of marijuana, alcohol, or other illicit substances, the time is now to step in and help him get back on track. Early intervention can help him to avoid a lifetime of addiction and addiction-related problems. Call us at Muir Wood now and find out how our teen-centered rehabilitation program for boys can help.