In the past decade waterpipe (WP) smoking (a.k.a. hookah, shisha, and narghile) has been steadily spreading among the youth around the world. The allure of this tobacco use method for the youth can stem from its pleasant smooth smoke, social ambience and the perception of reduced harm. The material in this review is based on detailed Medline search for articles appearing especially in the past two years that are of relevance to WP epidemiology, health and addictive effects, and WP-related tobacco control policies. It shows that WP smoking is continuing to spread among the youth worldwide, and perhaps represents the second global tobacco epidemic since the cigarette. Available evidence suggests that the prevalence of current (past month) WP smoking range from 6 to 34% among Middle Eastern adolescents, 5%-17% among American adolescents, and that WP use is increasing globally. Studies on the health effects of WP smoking are limited by methodological quality, as well as by the novelty of WP epidemic relative to the long latency of important smoking-related health outcomes. Still, research indicates substantial WP harmful effects similar to those of cigarettes, as well as to the potential of providing a bridge to cigarette smoking or relapse. Developing effective interventions to curb WP use among the youth requires a detailed understanding of how dependence develops in WP users, and how it is shaped by WP's unique features such as the following; the predominantly intermittent use with prolonged sessions, preparation time, accessibility, potent sensory cues, and convivial experience of group use. It also requires assessing effective policy options such as factual and visible health warnings on all its parts, as well as youth access and indoor smoking restrictions. WP smoking is currently showing all signs of a burgeoning global epidemic with serious implications for public health and tobacco control worldwide. Investment in research and policy initiatives to understand and curb WP use needs to become a public health priority.
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