Gender differences in waterpipe tobacco smoking among university students in four eastern mediterranean countries

Randah R. Hamadeh, Arabian Gulf University
Juhan Lee, University of Florida
Niveen M.E. Abu-Rmeileh, Birzeit University
Muhammad Darawad, The University of Jordan
Aya Mostafa, Ain Shams University
Khalid A. Kheirallah, Jordan University of Science and Technology
Afzalhussein Yusufali, Dubai Medical College
Justin Thomas, Zayed University
Mohamed Salama, American University in Cairo
Rima Nakkash, American University of Beirut
Ramzi G. Salloum, University of Florida


© 2020 Hamadeh R.R. et al. INTRODUCTION Males have a higher prevalence of waterpipe tobacco smoking (WTS) than females in most Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) countries, with a smaller gender gap than that of cigarette smoking. The objective of this study was to determine gender differences among university students with respect to WTS initiation, smoking behavior, tobacco flavors, and expenditure on WTS, in four EMR countries. METHODS A cross-sectional online survey was conducted based on convenient samples of ever waterpipe smokers among university students in four EMR countries (Egypt, Jordan, Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the United Arab Emirates) in 2016. The total samples included 2470 participants. Study participants were invited through flyers, university portals, emails and Facebook, followed by emails with links to the internet survey. RESULTS Females (80.4%) were more likely than males (66.4%, p<0.001) to be in the younger age group (18–22 years) and they were less likely to be current waterpipe smokers (females, 60.0%; males 69.5%, p<0.001). Two-thirds of students across both genders smoked their first waterpipe at the age of 15–19 years, with more females starting with family members. Over one-third of males and 14.9% of the females usually smoked ≥10 heads (p<0.001). About half (46.6%) of females smoked for less than half an hour compared to 30.5% of males (p<0.001). Only 1% of females smoked non-flavored tobacco compared to 11% of males (p<0.001). There was a significant (p=0.05) positive correlation (r=0.808) with respect to tobacco flavor usually smoked between males and females with apple/double apple being the most popular. CONCLUSIONS There were gender differences in WTS in several aspects. The study has implications for educational establishments, tobacco control and women civil society groups, as well as policymakers.