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More people are gathering around the hookah table and lighting up, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

According to the recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health, from 2005 to 2008 hookah use rose 40 percent. That number was even higher in young adults aged 18-24.

Among the new hookah smokers, the largest increase was among young male adults with a 24.5 percent increase, compared to a 10 percent increase in women.

The hookah's rise in popularity can be seen by the increased number of hookah lounges throughout San Diego County, despite strict smoking laws.

“Though public indoor cigarette smoking is banned throughout California, hookah use is permitted in designated lounges. This may create the impression that hookah is a safer alternative to cigarettes, which is simply not true,” say researchers.

"Increased popularity of the hookah – a water pipe used for smoking tobacco – may be caused by the social nature of the behavior coupled with the misguided belief that it is less harmful than cigarettes."

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