Shisha Pens, also called e-shisha, electronic shisha pipe, hookah pens or e-hookah, are a very popular product that is designed to replace the use of traditional hookah pipes and shisha tobacco.
A traditional hookah pipe used for smoking shisha tobacco.
But how are they different from ‘electronic cigarettes’?
First, a little context: Shisha tobacco (known in Arabic as ‘Mu‘assel’ which means ‘honeyed’ and sometimes shortened to simply ‘shisha’ in the west) is a mixture of dried tobacco leaves, molasses and quite often vegetable glycerine (The same ‘VG’ as you would find in e-liquids). It is almost universally flavoured with fruits, herbs, mint or spices.
Shisha is traditionally smoked socially at cafés or bars, where it is placed into a hookah pipe and topped with glowing coals to set it burning. The smoke is inhaled through long hoses and passed through water in the bottom of the pipe to cool the smoke. This allows the smoker to inhale large amounts of smoke at a time. Usually, several people will share the pipe, either by using multiple hoses or simply passing the hose around the group.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the health issues surrounding traditional shisha tobacco smoking, with many claiming that it is far less unhealthy than cigarette smoke.
This is simply not the case. All burning tobacco releases tar and carcinogens, and much as the filter of a cigarette does little to reduce the harmful effects, the water in a hookah pipe does nothing but cool the smoke.
Prepared shisha tobacco coated in molasses
As the electronic cigarette became an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes, so too did the shisha pen arrive as an alternative to those who stopped smoking the hookah.
How do shisha pens work?
Shisha pens operate in the same way as an electronic cigarette. A battery heats an atomising element which in turn heats a liquid made up of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine, plus a flavouring.
This is where differences between e-shisha and vape pens/e-cigarettes begin. Most electronic cigarettes will be sold alongside and used with e-liquids (shisha pen flavours) that contain nicotine in various concentrations.
The devices referred to as rechargeable pens, conversely, are unlikely to contain nicotine. They are also far less likely to be tobacco flavoured, usually being sold in flavours that are already popular in traditional shisha tobacco such as apple, grape, mint and various other fruits and herbal mixtures.
The term ‘shisha pen’ is very rarely applied to larger refillable devices. Something with a refillable tank such as the Aspire Nautilus Mini (and whatever battery device it happens to be on such as the Vaporflask LITE) is more likely to be called an ‘electronic cigarette’ whereas a hookeh pen is usually smaller, non-refillable and disposable, much more similar to the prefilled cartomiser style of electronic cigarette (like the TABlites TABseries).
These devices are often more decorated, too, with bright colours and patterns that make them stand out and look less like traditional cigarettes and more in keeping with the brightly coloured glasswork of the traditional hookah pipe.
As a result of their often disposable nature, it is much more common to see devices branded as ‘shisha pens’ sold in multipacks containing 4 or 5 individual pen batteries, whereas electronic cigarettes are more typically sold as single units.
What are E-Shisha devices for?
A major selling point for these devices in the early days of the industry was a larger, more powerful battery than an equivalent sized and priced electronic cigarette.
This allowed the shisha vapour pen to deliver a larger plume of vapour with a more pronounced flavour as it heated the element in the atomiser more quickly and to a higher temperature. By allowing for this larger cloud and more obvious flavour the shisha pen was able to more accurately replicate the act of smoking a traditional hookah pipe.
Since then, with the introduction of sub-ohm and Cloud tanks like the Aspire Cleito and devices designed to run them, the products known as ‘electronic cigarettes’ can produce far larger and denser clouds of vapour than they used to, which strips the shisha pen of this claim to fame.
The differences between shisha pens and electronic cigarettes are subtle, and are largely aesthetic, but seem to echo the differences between the traditional methods of smoking either mu’assel or dried, rolled tobacco cigarettes. Largely similar but with key, often cultural, differences.
Still, if you’re looking to buy an e-cig or aE-Shisha the most important thing to remember is to make sure to check the nicotine content as these are nicotine products. You want to ensure you’re getting exactly what you want, after all.
Do you call your vaporiser an ‘e-cig’ or a ‘shisha pen’?
What’s your favourite flavour to vape?
Are you an ex tobacco smoker or shisha smoker?
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