Consensus statement on assessment of waterpipe smoking in epidemiological studies
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Numerous epidemiological accounts suggest that waterpipe smoking (aka hookah, shisha, narghile) has become a global phenomenon, especially among youth. The alarming spread of waterpipe and accumulating evidence of its addictive and harmful effects represent a new threat in the global fight to limit tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. In response to waterpipe's alarming trends, major public health and tobacco control organisations have started or are considering systematic collection of data about waterpipe smoking to monitor its trends and assess its harmful effects in different societies. Such plans require coordination and agreement on epidemiological measurement tools that reflect the uniqueness of this tobacco use method, and at the same time allow comparison of waterpipe trends across time and place, and with other tobacco use methods. We started a decade ago our work to develop standardised measures and definitions for the assessment of waterpipe smoking in epidemiological studies. In this communication, we try to expand and update these assessment tools in light of our increased knowledge and understanding of waterpipe use patterns, its context and marketing, as well as the need for evidence-guided policies and regulations to curb its spread. We have assembled for this purpose a group of leading waterpipe researchers worldwide, and worked through an iterative process to develop the suggested instruments and definitions based on what we know currently about the waterpipe epidemic. While the suggested measures are by no means comprehensive, we hope that they can provide the building blocks for standard and comparable surveillance of waterpipe smoking globally.
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