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Florida Department of Health awards $1.2 million to develop and test waterpipe-specific health warning labels

The Florida Department of Health has awarded $1,253,415 to the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and University of Miami to develop and test waterpipe-specific health warning labels that will be target young people in the state.

According to the Florida Department of Health, seven percent of youths in the state, ages 11-17, have tried smoking hookah, or waterpipe, in 2019; with 2.4 percent identifying as current hookah smokers in the same year.

“Waterpipe smoking, or hookah smoking, represents an important public health problem in Florida that needs to be addressed,” said Wasim Maziak, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Stempel College. “What many youths still don’t realize is that waterpipe smoking can lead to dependence, cigarette smoking and many of the well-known tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer.”

Communicating actual the harms of waterpipe smoking represents a promising approach to curb use among young people in Florida and nationwide.

Understanding the importance of the waterpipe epidemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken upon itself to regulate waterpipe tobacco products and components such as the tobacco device, bowls, etc. This included the FDA requiring Health Warning Labels (HWLs) on waterpipe tobacco packages about its addictive nicotine content as of August 10, 2018; opening the door for state and local governments to start considering HWLs for waterpipe control.

“Adding Health Warning Labels on the tobacco products was an important step in communicating the risks of waterpipe smoking, but more needs to be done to educate youth in our state,” Maziak continued. “Many waterpipe users go to popular hookah café settings and are not exposed to the tobacco package itself, so they are not being exposed to the warning labels.”

This project aims to develop waterpipe specific health warning labels, and test whether applying graphic Health Warning Labels directly to the waterpipe device, where waterpipe smokers have direct and extended contact, is effective in communicating risks of waterpipe smoking and influencing smoker behavior and intention to quit.

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