Waterpipe smoking among university students in Hong Kong: a cross-sectional study

BMC Public Health. 2020 Apr 21;20(1):543. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-08686-6.


Background: Waterpipe smoking has gained global popularity in recent years, especially among young people. However, there is a lack of empirical investigation into waterpipe smoking in East Asia. This study aimed to investigate the demographical and psycho-social characteristics and patterns of waterpipe smoking (WPS) among university students in Hong Kong.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted via online questionnaires administered to 1288 Hong Kong university students (mean age: 22.4 [SD = 3.8]). Logistic regressions were used to compute adjusted odd ratios (aOR) for waterpipe ever-smoking in relation to respondents' characteristics. Moreover, multinomial logistic regression yielded adjusted RR (aRR) for four different smoking status (i.e., never, waterpipe-only, cigarette-only, and dual smoking) regarding the characteristics.

Results: 23.8% of participants reported having ever smoked a waterpipe (vs. cigarette ever-smoking: 21.1%). Factors including being female (aOR:1.57; 95% CI: 1.22-2.02), older age (≥24 years: 4.17; 1.35-12.93), frequent alcohol consumption (>monthly: 26.02; 10.91-62.09), and higher sensation-seeking behaviours (high level: 2.98;1.46-6.08) were associated with waterpipe ever-smokers. The study also identified that demographical and psycho-social characteristics were variably associated with students' smoking status. Particularly, more frequent alcohol consumption was most significantly associated with waterpipe-only smoking (aRR:45.73; 95% CI:11.44-182.73) (vs. cigarette-only smoking: 3.01; 1.76-5.14).

Conclusions: WPS is the most common form of tobacco smoking among university students in Hong Kong, and characteristics unique to the population were identified. There is no legislation of relevant policies on WPS despite its concerning significance in public health among young people, therefore immediate action to monitor and control WPS is needed in Hong Kong.

Keywords: Hookah; Prevalence; Shisha; University student; Waterpipe smoking; Young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sociological Factors
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Water Pipe Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult