Background: Hookah pipe smoking is a social practice and has gained popularity, especially among South African youth. The extent of this practice among health sciences students, and their knowledge regarding the health risks, are unknown. This is important, as these students will become future health professionals possibly influencing the practice of individuals and communities.
Objective: To explore the knowledge, attitudes and practices of hookah pipe smoking among students at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. METHODS. A cross-sectional study was conducted among undergraduate and postgraduate students. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed as a hard copy and online survey.
Results: Of 228 participants, 66% had smoked a hookah pipe before, with 18% still smoking. Most began smoking in high school, with 25% initiating at university. Of the current smokers, 65% smoked occasionally socially, commonly at friends' houses for 30 - 60 min/session. A further 11% smoked cigarettes concurrently and 30% added other substances, mainly cannabis, to pipes. Most current hookah smokers had no interest in quitting (84%). Only 30% of participants had prior health information about hookah pipe smoking. Most knew that it was harmful (91%), with many not knowing why. A total of 80% of participants perceived that the practice was socially acceptable and 84% would recommend it to others.CONCLUSION; The poor knowledge about the dangers of hookah pipe smoking and the extent of its practice among health sciences students is alarming. These findings highlight the need for school and university health promotion campaigns, and for better regulation of hookah pipe smoking.