Journal Club: College athletes at risk for waterpipe tobacco smoking

February 1, 2010

Given that college athletes are up to half as likely as their peers to smoke cigarettes, investigators explored whether varsity, club, and intramural athletes also are less likely than nonathletes to engage in waterpipe smoking

Given that college athletes are up to half as likely as their peers to smoke cigarettes, investigators explored whether varsity, club, and intramural athletes also are less likely than nonathletes to engage in waterpipe smoking. Using a waterpipe-hookah, narghile, arghile, or shisha-pipe-to smoke tobacco is an emerging trend among college students.

Investigators analyzed 8,745 responses from an online survey about waterpipe and cigarette tobacco smoking and about participation in intramural, club, and varsity sports. The questions were part of the revised annual National College Health Assessment survey, which was completed by selected students from 8 universities in the South, Northeast, and Western regions of the United States.

Overall, 2,576 (29.5%) male and female respondents reported ever trying waterpipe tobacco smoking; these respondents were significantly more likely to be younger, male, and not African American. Club sport participants and intramural participants were more likely than nonparticipants to have ever tried waterpipe smoking. Varsity sports participants, on the other hand, were no more likely than nonparticipants to have smoked tobacco from a waterpipe. The survey confirmed that club, intramural, and varsity sports participants all were less likely than their nonparticipating counterparts to have smoked cigarettes (Primack BA, et al. J Adolesc Health. 2010;46[1]:45-51).

Research shows that many young people who would not consider smoking cigarettes see waterpipes as a safer and more acceptable alternative. They are not, however: The unfiltered smoke from 1 bowl of tobacco contains up to 46 times the tar content of 1 cigarette. And the water-cooling does nothing to decrease the addictive properties of nicotine. The American Lung Association reports that teens who use a waterpipe are 8 times more likely than their peers to smoke cigarettes. We need to warn our patients starting at an early age that smoke from a hookah is a danger to their health, and we need to encourage regulation of hookah bars and cafes in our communities.-MB