MD Mama

One in Five Teens Has Smoked a Hookah: Has Yours?

hookah.jpgHonestly, it's exhausting being a parent of a teen these days. Every time we turn around, there's something else to worry about--and talk to them about. As if sex, drugs and social media weren't enough, a study just published in the journal Pediatrics says that we need to talk to them about hookah.

In case you don't know what hookah is, or aren't sure (I wasn't sure, and had to look it up), hookah is a water pipe used to smoke specially made and usually flavored tobacco. These pipes, which have been around for centuries (they were ancient when Lewis Carroll depicted the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland smoking one), are usually smoked communally, with people passing the mouthpiece around.

According to the study, 18 percent of high school seniors have smoked hookah. I have to say, that surprised me. After all, tobacco smoking in general is declining among teens. But not so much with hookah. Whether it's the flavoring or the social aspect or something else, hookah use is on the rise in youth and young adults.

Many of those youth and young adults apparently think that smoking hookah is less dangerous than smoking a cigarette. Well...not so much. The smoke from hookah has all the same toxins and carcinogens (plus a few from the coal used to burn the tobacco, if that's the kind that is used). Just as with cigarettes, smoking hookah can lead to all sorts of different kinds of cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease.

And here's an interesting (and worrisome) fact: while it usually takes about 20 puffs to smoke a cigarette, in an hour of group hookah smoking, chances are you will inhale way more often than 20 times--and between that and the secondhand smoke, you can end up with a way bigger exposure to smoke than you realize.

So add hookah to the list of things to talk about with your teen. There's no way we will ever stop all teens from making some dumb and risky decisions--that's part of being a teen. But at least we can make sure that they have correct information. Like that hookah is just as bad as cigarettes.

Continue Reading Below