Setting: Narghile (waterpipe) smoking is increasing in all Arab societies, but little is known about its pattern of use.
Methods: In 2003, a cross-sectional survey was conducted among students at Aleppo University using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. A representative sample of 587 students participated (278 males, 309 females; mean age 21.8 +/- 2.1 years; response rate 98.8%).
Results: Ever narghile smoking was seen among 62.6% of men and 29.8% of women, while current smoking was seen among 25.5% of men and 4.9% of women. Only 7.0% of the men used narghile daily. Age of initiation was 19.2 +/- 2.2 and 21.7 +/- 3.2 years for men and women, respectively (P < 0.001). The salient feature of narghile smoking was its social pattern, where most users initiated and currently smoked narghile with friends. Narghile and cigarette smoking were related among students, with narghile smoking most prevalent among daily cigarette smokers. Multivariate correlates of narghile smoking were being older, male, originating from the city, smoking cigarettes, having friends who smoke narghile, and coming from a household where a greater number of narghiles were smoked daily.
Conclusions: Narghile smoking is prevalent among university students in Syria, where it is mainly practiced by men, intermittently, and in the context of social activities with friends.