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Students who report waterpipe tobacco smoking are more likely to overestimate descriptive norms of WTS among their peers, study finds

It has been documented that smoking tobacco via waterpipe (WP) is increasing, especially among college students. A recent study examined the perceived and actual descriptive and injunctive norms of waterpipe tobacco smoking (WTS) among college students. Participants (N = 894) were undergraduate students attending a large Midwestern university. Participants completed an online survey, which included questions about their WTS status, descriptive norms, perceived injunctive norms and perceived descriptive norms. Those who denied WTS were classified as “never users”; those who affirmed past 30-day smoking were classified as “current users” and those who denied current WTS were classified as “ever users”. Actual descriptive norms were assessed using an adapted version of the Daily Drinking Questionnaire, while perceived descriptive norms were assessed using an adapted version of the Drinking Norms Rating Form. The authors conducted descriptive statistics to examine participants’ WTS and descriptive and injunctive norms, one-sample t-tests to examine whether participants misperceived the amount that same-sex peers smoked WP as well as one-way analysis of covariance to examine the differences in perceptions of WTS between never and ever WP smokers. Results showed that 35.3% of participants reported having ever smoked WP, 2.2% reported mast month WTS and 64.7% reported never having smoked WP. Furthermore, 47.6% of never users reported that none of their five closest friends would approve of their WTS compared to 19.9% of ever users. Moreover, 43.4% of ever users reported that all five of their closest friends would approve of their smoking WP, compared to 16.4% of never users. The differences between ever users and never users’ perceptions of how many of their closest friends would approve of their smoking WP were significant (p < 0.001). In addition, both male and female participants significantly overestimated the number of weekly WTS sessions that same-sex students engage in every week.

Take away: In comparison to never users, ever users reported greater perceived peer approval of WTS. Additionally, participants overestimated WTS frequency of same-sex students at their university.

Leavens, E. L., Brett, E. I., Morgan, T. L., Lopez, S. V., Shaikh, R. A., Leffingwell, T. R., & Wagener, T. L. (2018). Descriptive and injunctive norms of waterpipe smoking among college students. Addictive behaviors77, 59-62.

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