Look up and down any busy high street and you’ll see far fewer cigarettes than you would have if were standing on that same high street 10 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll see fewer people smoking. That might sound like a paradox until you factor in the recent explosion of electronic smoking devices. E-cigarettes are not necessarily new. In fact, the idea was first conceived in the 1920s and patented in 1963. But in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in vaping products including Hookah Pens.
Of course, the Hookah is far from a new invention, too. In fact, people all over the world have been smoking Shisha / Hookahs since the 15th century, although it was the Ottoman Empire that saw this social and convivial form of smoking popularised outside of the Middle East. With an explosion of electronically advanced smoking products, there is much confusion as to the health risks of new devices like Hookah pens.
Are Hookah pens bad for your health? How do they compare to a traditional Hookah device or equivalent forms of e-cigarette for that matter? In order to answer these questions, we’ll have to start at the very beginning…
What is a Hookah Pen?
A Hookah pen (also known as a Shisha pen, electronic Shisha or e-Shisha) is an electronic device that works in a very similar way to an e-cigarette. A heating element called an atomiser is used to vaporise an e-liquid which is then inhaled. A Hookah pen has the same anatomy as an e-cigarette too, consisting of a cartridge to contain the e-liquid, an atomiser and a (usually lithium-ion) battery. The cartridge usually tapers into the mouthpiece from which the vapour is inhaled.
Hookah pens vs e-cigarettes… What’s the difference?
On the face of it, disposable Hookah pens and e-cigarettes might seem completely interchangeable. And when you scratch the surface, the workings behind the two are very similar.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Hookah pens and e-cigarettes is cultural. E-cigarettes are largely viewed as a means of quitting smoking, giving smokers their nicotine fix without the harmful carcinogens found in cigarettes.
Hookah pens, however, are more associated with the social and convivial experience of Shisha smoking. And this is both a blessing and a curse, as we’ll discuss later.
Hookah pens vs Shisha… What’s the difference
A more traditional Hookah works like this. Air heated by charcoal is passed through a bowl packed with tobacco in the form of a paste-like substance. This smoke passes through the water at the bottom of the hookah and the smoker inhales the tobacco via a hose and mouthpiece.
This makes for a much more intense smoking experience. In fact, experts believe that an hour of Shisha smoking has an equivalent impact on your health as smoking 100 cigarettes. Hookah pens, however, do not contain tobacco but the e-fluid does contain nicotine. Even though users of Hookah pens do not imbibe the carcinogens from burning tobacco and charcoal-like they do in a traditional Hookah, there is still a risk of addiction.
The health risks of Hookah pens
Because Hookah pens do not contain the carcinogenic compounds contained in Shisha, they carry much less of a health risk than traditional Shisha. Nonetheless, that does not make them completely free of health risk, especially given the addictive nature of nicotine.
According to Dr Donald Bucklin, Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks, “The biggest danger of hookah pens is they can encourage people to smoke more of it and may even lead to a certain level of addiction. People who use hookah pen may also experience throat ache or muscle aches given the product’s Propylene Glycol content.”
Hookah pens have much more longevity when compared to a traditional cigarette and as such, heavy users may find themselves imbibing large quantities of nicotine in any given days. As with e-cigarettes, their newness means that there is little data on the long-term risks of the use of Hookah pens.
Know the benefits. Know the risks. Make an informed choice
Part of leading a healthy lifestyle as an adult is making informed choices based on accurate information. The use of Hookah pens can be a relaxing way to socialise with friends or unwind after a hard day’s work, but it’s important to understand the potential health risks associated with their use.
Whether or not you choose to smoke Hookah pens depends on how you feel after knowing the potential social and psychological benefits weighed against the potential health risks that come with using nicotine.