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Hookah smoking on Twitter

Positive mentions on Twitter about hookah smoking may promote the assumption that it is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In recent years, hookah smoking has increased in popularity, particularly among young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hookah smoking has many of the same harmful toxins as cigarettes and carries the same health risks. Yet, the researchers found that most of the 12,000 hookah-related tweets posted per day portray hookah smoking in a positive light.

IN RECENT YEARS, HOOKAH BARS AND LOUNGES HAVE BEEN OPENING ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, PARTICULARLY NEAR COLLEGE CAMPUSES. NOW A TEAM OF RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAS LOOKED AT TWITTER TO FIND OUT HOW THAT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM IS REACTING TO HOOKAH SMOKING, AND THEY FOUND THAT ON TWITTER, HOOKAH SMOKING AND HOOKAH BARS USUALLY ARE DEPICTED IN A POSITIVE WAY AND OFTEN ARE TWEETED ABOUT AS SOMEHOW LESS HARMFUL THAN CIGARETTE SMOKING. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS…

ON TWITTER AT LEAST, THE REACTION TO HOOKAH SMOKING SEEMS TO BE OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE. THE STUDY IDENTIFIED EVERY HOOKAH-RELATED TWEET SENT OUT DURING THE COURSE OF A MONTH. THEN, THE RESEARCHERS RATED THE TWEETS TO ENSURE THAT THEY WERE INFLUENTIAL ENOUGH TO REACH LARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE, AND THEN THEY ANALYZED A RANDOM SAMPLE OF 5,000 TWEETS TO FIND OUT HOW HOOKAH SMOKING WAS BEING DEPICTED. FIRST AUTHOR MELISSA KRAUSS, FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY’S DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, SAYS THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME THIS GROUP HAS LOOKED AT TWEETS ABOUT SOME SORT OF POTENTAILLY HARMFUL SUBSTANCE USE.

(act) :21 o/c hookah use

We’ve looked at tweets that mention marijuana, tweets that mention

alcohol, so we wanted to see, okay, what about the new and trendy

form of tobacco use? What are people saying about this on Twitter?

And similar to the alcohol and marijuana studies, we found that

most of the tweets were promoting, or normalizing, hookah use.

IN FACT, ALMOST 90 PERCENT OF THE TWEETS WERE POSITIVE, WITH ONLY ABOUT 7 PERCENT NEGATIVE, OR DISCOURAGING HOOKAH USE. KRAUSS SAYS, IN SOME WAYS, THAT’S NOT SURPRISING.

(act) :10 o/c like it

I think you have to be compelled to tweet about it, and as

we found with alcohol and marijuana, when people are compelled

to tweet about it, it’s usually because they like it.

KRAUSS SAYS ONE OF THE MOST DISTURBING PARTS OF ALL THE POSITIVE TWEETING ABOUT HOOKAH SMOKING IS THAT SOME PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK THAT BECAUSE THE TOBACCO SMOKE PASSES THROUGH WATER ON THE WAY TO THE SMOKER, IT’S SOMEHOW LESS HARMFUL THAN SMOKING CIGARETTES.

(act) :20 o/c 100 cigarettes

There is a misconception that because it’s going through the

water, people tend to think that it’s filtering out the toxins,

and it’s a cleaner way to smoke — which is just not the case.

In fact, the World Health Organization states that one session

of hookah smoking can be as bad as smoking 100 cigarettes.

AS PART OF THE ANALYSIS, KRAUSS SAYS THE RESEARCHERS WANTED TO MAKE SURE THEY WERE SEEING TWEETS THAT HAD THE POTENTIAL TO REACH LARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE.

(act) :15 o/c of people

Those that had a high influence, which is measured by Klout

score or high number of followers, not tweets that are not

going to anyone, but could be influential or impactful because

they are being seen by a large number of people.

AND KRAUSS SAYS WITH ALL OF THESE POSITIVE MESSAGES FLOATING AROUND ON TWITTER, THERE’S A WORRY THAT THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE SMOKING HOOKAH WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE. SHE SAYS PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS NEED TO CATCH UP WITH THIS SORT OF MESSAGING, AND THEY NEED TO DO IT IN A HURRY.

(act) :23 o/c social media

We’ve done a good job of decreasing cigarette smoking, but now

there are these new, trendier forms of tobacco use. And so, I

think that public health need to find out how to create a larger

presence on social media and figure out the best strategies to

spread their messages on social media.

KRAUSS AND HER COLLEAGUES REPORTED ON HOOKAH-RELATED TWEETS IN PREVENTING CHRONIC DISEASE, A JOURNAL FROM THE U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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