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Indian J Cancer. 2018 Jul-Sep;55(3):261-264. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_142_18.

Hookah products and online retail marketing strategies in India: A content analysis.

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Department of Public Health Dentistry, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, New Delhi, India.



Hookah smoking is becoming increasingly popular among the youth. Evidence shows that exposure to marketing of the unhealthy products through social media platforms may impact adolescent health behaviors. The aim of the study was to perform a content analysis of online portals selling hookah products.


A content analysis of online retail market was conducted on Google India using three keywords hookah, hookah products, and shisha. Retail websites popular in India that were selling hookah products were randomly selected and explored. A total of 15 themes were developed and used to describe various promotional strategies for hookah products.


In all, 41 (19.2%) products claimed to be tobacco/nicotine-free and only 14 products (6.5%) displayed age/health-specific warnings. About 86% of products were available at discounted rates; glamorizing words for describing products in form of superior, premium, and legendary were found on 189 (88.3%) products. Phrases such as "ultimate way to celebrate," "perfect excuse to chill with your friends," and "now enjoy the world of smoking without any doubt of harm" are commonly used to promote hookah products.


Easy availability of newer forms of smoking at online markets could play a role in promoting the use of hookah among the youth. Most products are being sold without any warnings and there is no means to control the selling of the products to minors. There is a need to raise the issue of hookah products in the same tune as done for other forms of tobacco.


Adolescence; hookah smoking; lung diseases; marketing

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