University of Pittsburgh LogoCollege students who participate in intramural or club sports seem to be less likely to smoke cigarettes in contrast to non-athletes. However, they appear to be more prone to smoke from a hookah as compared to non-athletes. At least this is what experts from the University of Pittsburgh have to say.

A hookah or waterpipe is known to be used to breathe in tobacco which is generally flavored or sweetened. The opening of several hookah cafes in the U.S. over the past decade may perhaps demonstrate the rising popularity of hookah smoking.

The aesthetic appeal of the practice suggests that hookah smoking seems to be safe. However, studies have apparently revealed that hookah tobacco smoke is merely as toxic as cigarette smoke. Also it is believed to be associated with significant harm and addictiveness. For instance, an average of one hookah smoking session supposedly exposes the user to 40 times the tar of a single cigarette.

“This study demonstrates that many athletes clearly perceive hookah smoking as less of a concern than cigarette smoking. What they don’t realize, however, is that they are exposing themselves to many of the same toxic chemicals contained in cigarettes,” stated Lead author of the study, Brian Primack, M.D., Ed.M., M.S., assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine.

For the purpose of the study, experts at Pitt examined survey data from nearly 8,745 college-age individuals who were observed to have participated in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA). The study findings revealed that approximately 33 percent of the respondents seem to have reported participating in varsity, club and intramural sport in the previous year. Overall, 29.5 percent of the total sample subjects stated to have smoked from a hookah. In addition, consistent with what has been reported in the past, all types of athletes seemed to be less susceptible to smoke cigarettes as compared to non-athletes.

“Varsity athletes may be particularly cautious with any type of substance use because of the demands of their sport and the seriousness of their athletic commitment. But club and intramural athletes clearly perceive this as a safer form of tobacco use. We in public health need to impress upon them that it is not,” continues Dr. Primack.

Likewise, varsity athletes were noted to be approximately 22 percent less predictable to have smoked tobacco from a hookah in contrast to non-athletes. However, club and intramural participants were each 15 percent more prone than non-athletes to have smoked tobacco from a hookah.

Furthermore, Carl Fertman, Ph.D., M.B.A., Kristin Rice, M.P.H., and Michael Fine, M.D., M.Sc., all from the University of Pittsburgh; and Anna Adachi-Mejia, Ph.D., Dartmouth University were noted to have worked on this study along with Dr. Primack.

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.