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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evidence of emerging hookah use among university students: a cross-sectional comparison between hookah and cigarette use

Tracey E Barnett1*, Thalia Smith1, Ying He2, Eric K Soule1, Barbara A Curbow1, Scott L Tomar3 and Christopher McCarty4

Author affiliations

1 Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, 1225 Center Drive, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, University of Florida, 22 Buckman Dr, Dauer Hall, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA

3 Department of Community Dentistry & Behavioral Science, University of Florida, 1329 SW 16th Street, Gainesville, FL, 32608, USA

4 Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida, 221 Matherly Hall, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:302  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-302

Published: 5 April 2013



The emergence of hookah is being noted on college campuses and in large U.S. cities and evidence points to an increasing trend for college students. The purpose of this study was to assess hookah use and identify associations with cigarette smoking and demographic factors.


An intercept sampling method was used at various locations on a large university campus in the southeastern United States, yielding a high participation rate (52%). A total of 1,203 participants completed a computer-aided survey that assessed the use of tobacco products. The sample characteristics were then weighted to match the University population of students enrolled during the same semester. Bivariate (chi-square and t-test) and multivariate (logistic regression) tests of association were conducted to assess differences between cigarette and hookah users.


Hookah smoking exceeded cigarette smoking for both ever use (46.4% vs 42.1%) and past year use (28.4% vs 19.6%). Females and males used hookah at similar rates. Hispanic respondents had the highest prevalence of current use of hookah (18.9%) and cigarettes (16.4%).


As hookah surpasses cigarette use, efforts need to be made to slow the increase in new tobacco products that are attractive to young adults and that pose many of the same health risks as those related to traditional tobacco products. Prevalence of all emerging tobacco products, including hookah, and the relationship with cigarette use needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis.