Background Hookah use is prevalent among adolescent and young adult populations. The study assessed how positive cognitions toward cigarettes moderate the impact of positive hookah cognitions on past 30 day hookah use among a representative sample of youth. Understanding cognitions about products can contribute to effective interventions. Methods Data from the 2015 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey was used to determine cognitions and use patterns among high school students. Weighted means and proportions were used for demographic comparisons for cognitions about products. t-Tests and chi-square analysis were conducted for differences between users and non-users. Logistic regressions were conducted for the modeling of interaction between hookah and cigarette cognition. Results Nearly one out of ten (9.6%) of adolescents reported current hookah use. Across all cognition measures, positive hookah cognitions were associated with current hookah use. Additionally, there was a pattern of hookah cognitions being more strongly associated with current hookah use among those students that did not endorse the equivalent cognition for traditional cigarettes. Conclusions Hookah cognitions were generally more associated with hookah use among youth who did not endorse positive cognitions for cigarettes compared to those that did endorse positive cognitions for cigarettes. This finding is novel given youth who feel negatively about cigarettes are more influenced by their hookah-specific cognitions. Youth who believe cigarettes pose harm may benefit from messaging about the harms of hookah. Interventions or prevention efforts that draw strong comparisons between cigarettes and hookah may be effective among youth.