Hookah and E-cigarettes Health Communication Group

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Hookah and E-cigarettes Health Communication Group

The Hookah and E-cigarettes Health Communication Group is a collaborative group of tobacco control advocacy specialists and investigators at the University of Miami (Dr. Asfar), Florida International University (Drs. Maziak and Bursac), Florida Tobacco Free Workgroup (Dr. Thurer), tobacco control media and advocacy specialist (Mr. Abrams; Golin), youth-oriented anti-tobacco campaigns expert (Dr. Vallone; Truth Initiative), health communication specialist from the University of Memphis (Dr. Schmidt), FDA legal advisor (Mr. Lindblom), tobacco products regulatory scientist (Dr. Eissenberg), and a national and international authority on health communication for tobacco products, with a focus on e-cigarettes (Dr. Noar).

Hookah smoking has become one of the leading tobacco use methods among youth in the US. The impact of this dramatic rise is likely amplified by the mounting evidence of hookah’s addictive and harmful nature, as well as the lag of policy response to it. Similarly, the use of e-cigarettes has reached epidemic levels among young people in the US. Approximately, 27.5% of high school students in 2019 and 9.2% of young adults (18-24 years) in 2016 reported current e-cigarette use in the past month. E-cigarettes emit toxic substances, including nicotine that irreversibly affects youth’s developing brain leading to dependence and increased risk of cigarette smoking initiation. The spread of hookah and e-cigarette use among youth has been fueled by a misperception of reduced harm compared to cigarettes. Health warning labels represent one of the most successful tobacco control strategies to communicate smoking-related risks. Studies have consistently shown that health warning labels are associated with a decrease in smoking rates and smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Therefore, communicating hookah and e-cigarette risks to young people through health warning labels has been identified as a priority by major health bodies in the US including the FDA.

Our group is currently working on three innovative research projects. The first research project (Hookah Smoking in the U.S.), “Developing and testing waterpipe-specific health warning labels targeting young people in Florida”, is funded by the Florida Department of Health’s James & Esther King Biomedical Research Program. This project aims to develop and test a set of pictorial health warning labels for hookah.  The second research project (Electronic Cigarett), developing and testing health warning labels on e-cigarette devices is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) (1R01DA051836). It aims to develop evidence based pictorial health warning labels for e-cigarettes. The third project (Hookah Smoking in the Middle East) is an international project focusing on developing and testing health warning labels for hookah to help two countries in the Middle East, Lebanon and Tunisia, develop culturally adapted health warning labels for young hookah users.