Hookah Smokers As Young As Ten

PICTURE: Harriet Box

By Harriet Box

CAPE TOWN: Hookah pipe smoking is on the rise among children, says UWC PhD candidate Zainab Kader, but little is known about how to reduce the harmful practice.

Kader, who is also a registered counsellor, recognises a need for intervention and is working to help curb this trend, which could pose serious health, economic, academic and environmental risks.

“Because it is a social practice which involves a group of friends, it makes it harder to persuade people to quit or change their habits. I believe it will require a specific intervention strategy, and at the moment there is nothing in place to discourage the youth from starting up the habit, or encouraging them to quit it,” says Kader.

Kader aims to identify existing interventions and deterrents to address adolescent hookah pipe use. In addition, she hopes to understand the prevalence and motivation for hookah pipe use in order to develop an intervention strategy aimed at preadolescents and adolescents.

Many parents and adults view hookah pipe smoking as harmless, and often, she says, they “would gift youth with a hookah pipe”.

“I sampled people from all backgrounds and found that hookah pipe use is on the rise among South Africans. It has been found to be a gateway to other substances such as cigarettes, cannabis and alcohol,” says Kader.

Kader obtained her BPsych in 2012 and MA in Child and Family Studies in 2015. Her study focused on the effects of family conflict on basic psychological needs and externalising behaviour.


  • Smoking the hookah pipe causes nicotine dependence, poorer quality of life, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, headaches, coughing and loss of taste.
  • South African studies have found that 67% of hookah pipe users begin as adolescents and 26% start smoking at college or university. Some start smoking from as young as 10 years old.