Alternative Tobacco Products E-cigarettes and Hookahs on the Rise

Cigarette use has dropped by 33% in the last decade, but the use of alternative tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookahs has risen by a whopping 123%! Many people use these tobacco products believing them to be safer than nicotine, but evidence suggests they may be far worse for your health. Research shows that a 45-minute hookah session can equate to as many as 5 packs of cigarettes.

FACT: Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death globally, and kills more people than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

Teens Are Most at Risk Woman smoking hookah.

Nine out of ten adult smokers started their habit when they were children. Following this trend, the majority of people using alternative tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookahs are 18 years old and younger. In fact, 20% of high school seniors smoke hookahs.

Michael Weitzman, MD, a professor of Pediatrics and of Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center explains: “Alternative tobacco products represent a new challenge in the 75-year-old war against tobacco. With the increasing numbers of young adults using alternative tobacco products, we have every reason to be concerned.”

Dr. Weitzman and Stephen M. Amrock, MD co-authored a report titled, “Alternative Tobacco Products as a Second Front in the War on Tobacco.” In it, they cite earlier research from University of Pittsburgh scientists that shows that among young adults 15-23 years of age, the use of hookahs and other alternative tobacco products may correlate to a 2.5 times increase in cigarette use later in life.

Cigarette use notwithstanding, smoking e-cigarettes and hookahs may be doing just as much damage. According to a 2014 study published in Tobacco Control, NYC hookah bars are filled with potentially hazardous levels of secondhand smoke, nicotine, and other air pollutants, and hookahs can easily transmit infectious diseases.

E-cigarettes and hookahs are not currently under FDA supervision. In order to boost awareness, Weitzman suggests using the same tactics used to help decrease cigarette smoking: taxation, education, and restrictions on advertising and sales to minors.