In order to discern if electronic shisha pens are indeed a safer alternative to smoking a traditional shisha, we first need to explain what exactly they are and how they work. Also referred to as electronic shisha sticks, electronic hookahs or e-hookahs, the electronic shisha pens are a very popular trend, especially amongst the younger generations, because they resemble the socially pleasant, recreational experience of using a traditional shisha in the absence of the smoke that many find annoying, stinky or nasty.
Available both as disposables as well as re-usables, e-shisha pens are battery-operated devices, similar to an electronic cigarette, which feature an atomizer, where an e-liquid is heated up thus turning into a vapor that users inhale. The e-liquids come in a huge variety of different flavors – mostly fruity – that one can choose from.
Most e-liquids used in e-hookahs are made up of water, fruit flavouring (consisting mainly of herbs), vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. Although both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are non-toxic organic compounds not enough is known about the real hazards or effects on one’s health caused by inhaling these two substances.
Although some brands of e-liquids used in electronic shisha pens also contain varying levels of nicotine content, the advantage of e-hookahs is that they do not contain toxic compounds, such as carbon monoxide, nor heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead or any other carcinogenic chemicals, which are commonplace in traditional shishas. Thus, e-hookah users are exposed to much less hazards than real hookah users, who inhale such toxic compounds putting their health at risk of various smoking-related diseases.
Another advantage of electronic shisha pens over traditional shishas is that the e-versions do not produce smoke, but only vapor. As a result there is no nasty smell to go with them and they cannot be accused of exposing those around the user to the dangers of passive inhalation. These are exactly the reasons why the use of e-hookahs is allowed in indoor spaces, where traditional hookahs are prohibited.
Although they appear to be safer, due to the absence of toxic ingredients and the replacement of smoke with vapor, the truth remains that e-hookahs are such a new product that there still remain many gaps of knowledge to fill about them. Pending such reliable and credible studies which would confirm they are indeed safer, users are urged to be cautious when using electronic shisha pens.