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Hookah, E-cigs Safer Than Cigarettes, Young Adults Believe

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According to a new US study, adults under 25 are more likely to believe that hookah and e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, compared to 25 to 34-year-olds.

“This is concerning as it suggests that even a substantial proportion of nonsmokers may view hookah as being a relatively safer and acceptable way to use tobacco,” the researchers wrote.

The research involved data from 2,871 smoking and nonsmoking young adults, ages 18-34. Dr. Olivia A. Wackowski and Dr. Cristine D. Delnevo found that a quarter of young adults believed hookahs to be less risky than cigarettes. This belief is shared by current cigarette smokers and those who had never smoked cigarettes before.

“This might be associated with differences in advertising messages these groups are exposed to, the variety of flavors these different products are offered in, and in the case of e-cigarettes, possibly an inclination for younger people to attribute more positive feelings toward newer products that are seen as new and ‘techy’,” commented the study authors.

Other ket findings of the study include the following:

  • 62.1% of young adults ages 18 to 24 believed that e-cigarettes were less risky than cigarettes, while 54.6% of 25 to 34-year-olds believed e-cigarettes to be less risky. Additionally, 32.7% of 18 to 24-year-olds believed hookah to be less risky than cigarettes, while 18.5% of 25 to 34-year-olds believed hookah to be less risky.
  • 57.8% of respondents believed e-cigarettes to be less risky than cigarettes and 11.4% said they were unsure.
  • 50% of respondents said that methanol cigarettes, hookah, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and snus were about as risky as cigarettes.
  • 30% of all respondents believed that smokeless tobacco, menthol cigarettes, and cigars were more risky than cigarettes.
  • 24.5% of respondents reported that hookah is less risky than cigarettes, which was equally prevalent for both cigarette smokers and nonsmokers.
  • 31.2% of respondents reported that they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes before and smoked regularly at the time of the survey.

The researchers also found that the belief that some tobacco products were riskier than cigarettes did not stop people from using them. They theorized that promoting other tobacco products, such as snuffs, as safer may not encourage smokers to switch products but instead encourage new product uptake for both smokers and nonsmokers.

Olivia A. Wackowski and Cristine D. Delnevo
Young Adults’ Risk Perceptions of Various Tobacco Products Relative to Cigarettes: Results From the National Young Adult Health Survey
Health Educ Behav, doi: 10.1177/1090198115599988