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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013 May 24;10(6):2120-32. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10062120.

Mixed methods pilot study of sharing behaviors among waterpipe smokers of rural Lao PDR: implications for infectious disease transmission.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA.


To date, the sharing behaviors associated with the homemade tobacco waterpipe used in rural areas of the Western Pacific Region have not been studied. Evidence from studies of manufactured waterpipes raises the possibility of infectious disease transmission due to waterpipe sharing. The objective of our pilot study in rural Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) was to identify and measure the prevalence of waterpipe sharing behaviors. We first conducted ethnographic studies to investigate waterpipe-smoking behaviors. These findings were then used to develop an interviewer-administered household survey that was used in a sampling of waterpipe smokers from three villages of the Luang Namtha province of Lao PDR (n = 43). Sampled waterpipe smokers were predominantly male (90.7%), older (mean age 49, SD 13.79), married (95.4%), farmers (78.6%), and had completed no primary education. Pipes were primarily made from bamboo (92.9%). Almost all (97.6%) smokers were willing to share their pipe with others. At the last time they smoked, smokers shared a pipe with at least one other person (1.2 ± 0.5 persons). During the past week, they had shared a pipe with five other persons (5.2 ± 3.8 persons). The high prevalence of sharing behaviors among waterpipe smokers in rural Southeast Asia raises the possibility that this behavior provides important and unmeasured social network pathways for the transmission of infectious agents.

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