Teen General Anxiety Disorder and Hookah Tobacco Smoking

About 22% of high school students today smoke and around 8% of those who smoke do so at least 20 days of the month. Yet, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an organization that monitors priority health-risk behaviors that play a role in the causes of death, disability, and social problems, fewer and fewer teens are lighting up cigarettes.


Instead, a new trend is growing around tobacco use – smoking with a hookah. Although the rate of cigarette smoking has significantly decreased in the last 10-15 years, smoking remains to be an unhealthy pattern for teens. And the rising rates of using the hookah to smoke tobacco among teens might be compensating for the drop in cigarette smoking.


A hookah is a type of pipe that burns charcoal which in turn heats up tobacco and produces smoke. The fumes are cooled by bubbling through a water-filled chamber before being inhaled. This leads to good news and bad news.


For the teen, inhaling the smoke after its been cooled is easier on the lungs. Plus, hookah smoking comes with flavors that are added to the tobacco making the tobacco smoke pleasant for others. However, the bad news here is that the cool smoke and the pleasant scents are misleading. They can trick the body in thinking that this kind of tobacco smoking is not harmful, but indeed it is.


The ease of this kind of smoking tobacco might make it a big sell for those teens with general anxiety disorder. Sadly, many teens today experience a form of anxiety that’s difficult to manage, making smoking a means to cope. When teens experience a type of debilitating anxiety – not the kind of stress or fear that comes before taking an exam or performing in the school play – but one that gets in the doing well in school, enjoying life, and feeling comfortable with oneself, they might seek a way to find comfort.


Typically, psychotherapy and medication are the best treatment methods for general anxiety disorder. Yet, many adolescents do not want to see a therapist or mental health professional perhaps because of fears that they might be sent to the psychiatric hospital. Although this is often not the case, teens may turn to drugs or at the very least smoking tobacco to ease their nerves. Instead of seeking professional treatment, an adolescent might continue to smoke.


General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those teens who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function at school, have healthy friendships, and usually consists of extreme worry even for everyday matters. Other forms of anxiety disorders among teens include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Phobias.


The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that one of the major health risk behaviors among adolescents is smoking. They found that behaviors that lead to tobacco use include trying cigarette smoking, smoking an entire cigarette before the age of 13, smoking a cigarette at least once in a week, and using various forms of smokeless tobacco. However, the CDC recognizes that the drop in cigarette use among teens is being offset by other forms of tobacco, including hookah, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Between 2011 and 2012, hookah use rose from 4.1% to 5.4% among high school students, according to the CDC. And among middle school students, 1.3% of middle schoolers reported using hookahs to smoke tobacco.


In general, there has always been a link between psychological illness, such as teen General Anxiety Disorder, and smoking and/or substance use. Experts have yet to see whether the ease of smoking tobacco through a hookah will make this form of substance use more accessible to teens, particularly for those who experience anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness.




Sathya, C. (July 7, 2014). Nearly 1 in 5 High School Seniors Have Tried Hookah. CNN Health. Retrieved on July 7, 2014 from http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/07/health/hookah-teen-popularity/index.html?hpt=hp_bn13