The Difference Between Hookah and Vaping
With so many alternative forms of smoking on the market, knowing the difference between them all can be a little difficult. Vaping is one of the newest alternatives to smoking to hit the market, and with the rapidly-evolving terminology, phases like hookah pen and vape pen have become apparently interchangeable, and a lot of confusion has been created in the process.
So what is a hookah? What’s the difference between hookah and vaping? And how do hookah pens come into this? Here’s a run-down of the key differences, and a look at which is the better alternative to cigarettes.
What is a Hookah?
A hookah is basically a water pipe. A hookah consists of a head (which is filled with moist tobacco), a central stem leading to a water bowl at the bottom, and a hose with a mouthpiece on the end. Moist tobacco is put in the head, and this is heated by lighting some charcoal held above it (on a piece of foil with holes poked in it or a metallic mesh). The intention is to heat the tobacco without burning it, but this doesn’t always work out as planned. The smoke is then sucked through the water and out of the hose before the user inhales.
The form of tobacco used in hookah pipes is slightly different from normal tobacco used in cigarettes. It’s moist, and often contains molasses, vegetable glycerin and flavorings. Combined with the reduced chance of combustion, this generally means that hookah smoke is less harsh to inhale than cigarette smoke.
What is the Difference Between Hookah and Vaping?
If you know what vaping is – using a coil to heat a liquid that usually contains nicotine – it should be clear that there is a big difference between hookah and vaping. In vaping, there is no tobacco present, despite the presence of nicotine or even some flavoring components from tobacco leaves. Although hookah tobacco isn’t the same as ordinary tobacco, the basic fact is that it’s still tobacco. Additionally, even though hookah smoking isn’t really supposed to involve combustion of the tobacco, it occasionally can, and this is a big difference between hookah and vaping.
There are some notable similarities between the two, though. In both vaping and hookah smoking, fruity flavors are the norm. Additionally, in both hookah smoking and vaping, the feel on your throat is much smoother than with cigarettes.
Why Are Vaping and Hookah Often Confused With Each Other?
Although there are some similarities, the differences between vaping and hookah are stark and obvious. Where one involves burning coals and moist tobacco, the other involves electric coils and no tobacco whatsoever. The appearance of the two could hardly be more different: one is a tall pipe with a bowl of water in the bottom and a large hose-like mouthpiece used to inhale the smoke, and the other is either a pen-sized or boxy electronic device with a comparatively small tip for inhaling.
However, there is still some confusion between the two, and this likely stems from the similarities noted above. Since hookah tobacco comes in a variety of flavors, contains VG and gives a smooth throat hit, there are some similarities in terms of the experience of vaping and using a hookah. Both products also contain nicotine, which is another big link between them. Finally, both are often claimed to be safer than smoking, but the evidence for this statement isn’t equal in both cases.
Vaping Culture and Hookah Culture: More Significant Differences
The differences between hookah pipes and e-cigarettes are pretty marked when you just consider the devices and how they work, but the two cultures are also very distinct.
On the one hand, vaping culture is made up of ex-smokers or people who’ve cut down their smoking with the help of a vape pen or other device. Although there are vape meets, tons of forums for users to share tips and advice, conventions and other events which bring the vaping community together, vaping is inherently a personal hobby.
The challenge is kicking your own smoking habit, and users merely help each other find the best setup to meet their own personal needs in an e-cig. On the other hand, hookah is a much more social pastime and has little to do with quitting smoking. Hookah pipes usually have multiple hoses attached to the water bowl, which makes using a hookah an inherently more social experience than vaping. It isn’t about avoiding smoking or reducing the harm of addiction; it’s about using
On the other hand, hookah is a much more social pastime and has little to do with quitting smoking. Hookah pipes usually have multiple hoses attached to the water bowl, which makes using a hookah an inherently more social experience than vaping. It isn’t about avoiding smoking or reducing the harm of addiction; it’s about using hookah for the flavors or the experience.
For example, a 2015 study conducted in Brazil found that only 6.8 % of those who’ve used hookah did so daily, and half of them said they only used it “occasionally.” Another study from 2015 in the US found that only around 38 % of those who’d ever used hookah did so six or more times in the past year. For vaping, data from the UK shows that around 45 % of people who vape but also smoke (known as “dual users”) use their e-cig every day, and 88 % of e-cig users who are ex-smokers vape every day.
Additionally, the main reasons given for using e-cigarettes are to either quit or cut down smoking, and to save money. On the contrary, for hookah use, evidence suggests that it’s partially related to general experimentation and partially due to the perception that it’s “cool and trendy.”
These results reflect the different purposes of hookah and vaping. Hookah is used occasionally to either experiment with something like smoking and partially because it’s seen as cool, trendy or otherwise enjoyable. However, long-term e-cigarette users are more likely to vape every day and almost all are doing so to quit smoking cigarettes. While youth e-cig use is closely related to experimentation (a lot like hookah use), most regular vapers are doing so specifically to quit or cut down on cigarettes, whether for financial or health-related reasons.
What’s the Difference Between a Vape Pen and a Hookah Pen?
Despite the existence of some similarities between vaping and hookah use, it’s clear that they’re more different than they are similar. So why are people unsure about the difference between vaping and hookah? It seems like a big reason for the confusion between the two is the existence of the hookah pen.
This is a device that is almost identical to a disposable e-cigarette, and in many ways the terms vape pen and hookah pen could be used interchangeably. Like a traditional e-cigarette, hookah pens vaporize a liquid using an electronic heating coil to produce a vapor which is inhaled by the user. The similarities are hard to avoid.
There are some important differences, though. Firstly, hookah pens do not ordinarily contain nicotine. While you can get some hookah pens with nicotine, this is a crucial difference and really the main thing that separates a disposable hookah pen with a disposable e-cig. Of course, e-cigarettes also come in the form of vape pens and mods, which look nothing like a hookah pen and still usually contain nicotine.
If you have a hookah pen with nicotine, though, there really is very little difference between a hookah pen and an e-cigarette, and this has a big part to play in the confusion about the differences between them. Add in other terms like e-hookah and e-hookah pen and the problem gets even worse: the rapidly-evolving language further muddies the distinction between hookah pens and vape pens.
The Risks of Hookah Use
The “heat not burn” intention of hookahs means that there is the potential for it to reduce risks in comparison to smoking, but the reality of the hobby means that it still carries very significant risks. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, combustion can still happen with hookah pipes, and if it does, then smoking hookah means inhaling combusted tobacco, just like when you smoke a cigarette.
However, even in more idealized situations, hookah smoke still contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. For example, hookah smoke contains carbon monoxide, several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and other carcinogenic or toxic ingredients, often in greater quantities than in cigarette smoke. The coals or wood used as a heat source actually contribute to the levels of toxic chemicals found in hookah smoke. The belief that the water filters out these harmful ingredients is, unfortunately, false.
Although there isn’t much evidence on the specific risks of hookah smoking, it’s widely accepted that its similarity in terms of chemistry means that hookah carries very similar risks to smoking. This does depend on how much you use hookah, though, and most users don’t smoke daily in the same way as cigarette smokers. However, each “session” involves inhaling a lot more smoke than cigarette smokers do.
The Risks of Vaping
In comparison to hookah, the risks of using vape pens or e-hookah pens are likely much smaller. This is because e-cigarettes primarily contain propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, neither of which is known to pose serious risks when inhaled, and any toxic chemicals present are in much smaller quantities than they are in smoke. This is true whether the smoke is from a cigarette or a hookah pipe.
The difference is due to the lack of tobacco in e-cigarettes and how the liquid is vaporized. With a much simpler chemical content than hookah tobacco, and no chance of combustion in regular use, e-cigarettes are clearly very different to hookah when it comes to the risks. In fact, the Royal College of Physicians in the UK recently released a report on the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes, which concluded that vaping is unlikely to pose 5 % of the risk of smoking.
It’s worth stressing that vaping is not completely safe. We don’t currently have long-term evidence on the risks of vaping, and although no health conditions have been linked to vaping, we do know enough to conclude that they won’t be entirely safe. For example, vaping is irritating to the lungs, and this could lead to health problems after long-term use. Additionally, although the levels of harmful chemicals in vapor are very low (often hundreds or even thousands of times lower than they are in smoke), there are still harmful chemicals present.
The Royal College of Physicians’ report points out that vape pen flavors are the most plausible source of risk from vaping, though. For example, diacetyl is a buttery flavoring chemical used in sweet e-juices from some companies, and this has been linked to lung disease in people exposed to large quantities over a long period of time. Most flavorings haven’t been tested for risks when inhaled, so even though most probably won’t be like diacetyl, the potential for risk is there.
Conclusion – Why Vape Pens Are Better Than Hookah
So there are many differences between vape pens and hookah, in terms of what they are, how they’re used, why they’re used and the likely risks. The question for many people then becomes: which one is better to use?
As mentioned earlier, vapers are much more likely to be vaping every day in an attempt to quit or cut down smoking, while hookah users are more likely to be experimenting and smoking less regularly. In a way, your choice between the two could be seen as relating to your intentions. However, as soon as you start to think about the risks, things change a lot.
Vaping is almost certainly safer than using a hookah. So even if you’re not intending to quit smoking, it would be better for your health if you experiment with vaping than with a hookah. The safest thing to do is avoid vaping or smoking hookah, but if you are going to do one of them, be sure you know the risks associated with both.
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