Instagram documents rising hookah use

January 12, 2017, University of Southern California

Social media is giving researchers insight into the rising use of hookah, according to a study from USC. Hookah, smoked through a water pipe and also known as shisha, has harmful health effects similar to cigarettes. But as cigarette use declined between 2005 and 2015 in the U.S, hookah use increased.

New data from social media documents thousands of people using hookah in and nightlife establishments using social media to promote hookah use.

Investigators from the Keck School of Medicine of USC analyzed Instagram to capture and document the social and environmental context in which individuals use and are marketed hookah-related products.

"By focusing on social media data, we can quickly discover emerging problems posed to public health, directly observing what the public is experiencing, doing and thinking almost in real-time," said Jon-Patrick Allem, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar research associate at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Hookah on Social Media

The study, published Jan. 11 in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, describes how the researchers analyzed posts on Instagram between Feb. 19 and May 19, 2016, by combining the hashtag #hookah with a geo-location inside the contiguous U.S.

Their analysis of more than 5,000 posts determined overarching themes within the images. More than a third were promotional material for hookah lounges, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, while a quarter depicted people lounging and using a hookah. Other themes included photos of a person blowing smoke or of stylized pipes.

Hookah promotion on social media was not surprising, said Jennifer Unger, study co-author and a professor of at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. However a third of the images showcased or referenced alcohol, suggesting nightlife entertainment regularly depicts and promotes using multiple substances—"a clear justification for a public health response."

"Instagram's focus on images facilitates picture-based advertising where hookah lounges promote drink specials at the same time nightclubs promote hookah specials," said Kar-Hai Chu, co-author of the study and a former research scientist at USC. "Our findings could be of great importance to as tobacco use facilitates greater intake of alcohol and vice versa."

A Public Health Response

Researchers did not find promotional material discouraging hookah use in their data. "Instagram users may see pictures of their friends and family enjoying themselves in social settings where hookah use is a focus," said Tess Boley Cruz, co-author and an assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Given the potential diffusion of such images through , it will be important for tobacco control researchers to develop programs to combat the positive imagery, and potential normalization, of hookah use on Instagram."

The study raises concern about particular U.S. tobacco control laws, which allow hookah to be used inside certain establishments. "The removal of policy exceptions in the U.S. would likely prevent use from being part of nightlife promotion and entertainment in the future," Allem said.

Explore further: Hookah tobacco labels are misleading, researchers find

Related Stories

Hookah tobacco labels are misleading, researchers find

December 16, 2016
Label information on many hookah tobacco products is misleading and may be misinterpreted by consumers, according to new research on nicotine and pH levels in hookah tobacco.

Students swayed by 'relaxing, fun' image of hookah smoking ignore health harms

May 20, 2014
Educational campaigns meant to dissuade college students from initiating hookah tobacco smoking may be more successful if they combat positive perceptions of hookah use as attractive and romantic, rather than focusing solely ...

Researchers alarmed at rise in hookah use among California youth

August 19, 2011
Hookah use among California youth ages 18 to 24 is rising rapidly according to a study conducted by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. The study appears in the "First Look" online version ...

Hookahs deliver toxic benzene in every puff, study shows

November 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—Many young people consider hookahs a hip and safer way to smoke, but a new study finds fumes from the water pipes contain the toxin benzene.

Hookah tobacco smoking seems to be increasing in both prevalence and frequency

September 15, 2015
Nearly 1 in 5 recently surveyed high school seniors report having smoked tobacco from a hookah in the past year, and more than a third of them reported smoking hookahs often enough to be considered regular users, an analysis ...

Harmful hookahs: Many young smokers aren't aware of the danger

July 8, 2014
Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that hookah smoking can be just as dangerous as cigarettes, many young adults believe that using the water pipes is not harmful to their health, according ...

Recommended for you

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

People who tan in gyms tan more often, and more addictively, than others, new research shows

July 18, 2018
Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

Omega 3 supplements have little or no heart or vascular health benefit: review

July 17, 2018
New evidence published today shows there is little or no effect of omega 3 supplements on our risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke or death.

Study shows that people most affected by alcohol also most impacted by sleep deprivation

July 17, 2018
A team of researchers from the German Aerospace Center and Forschungszentrum Jülich has found that people who are most susceptible to alcohol intoxication are also most susceptible to cognitive problems due to sleep deprivation. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.