By Hilary Diack
So, you kicked the cigarette habit ages ago. Well done. Shisha is a little more difficult to give up, there is something rather comforting about gentling drawing on the little plastic pipe with the familiar gurgle of water and aromatic smoke. But, health warnings still abound. That’s why you need to get serious about either dropping the habit or checking out the options.
The new trend for electronic shisha pens, also known as electronic shisha sticks is making inroads with smokers in global centers around the world. Although associated traditionally with Middle Eastern and North African cultures shishas had recently become increasingly popular among young people today, until concerns were voiced about their safety and hygiene. Enter the e-shisha.
One main reason for their growing popularity is that they offer a similar experience to smoking traditional shisha with reputedly fewer health risks than smoking traditional shisha. How do they work, and are they really a safe alternative to smoking traditional shisha?
How do they work?
An e-shisha pen is a battery-operated device similar to an electronic cigarette with an atomizer that heats up an e-liquid, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled. The main ingredients of most e-liquids are water, fruit flavoring (mainly herbs), vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. Both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are non-toxic organic compounds, however long term studies have not yet been conducted to uncover the risks involved in inhaling those substances.
How do they compare health-wise to traditional shisha?
It is important to note that with traditional shisha the amount of smoke produced in one session is far greater than any cigarette gives, with 600 puffs being typical for a one hour shisha session. This would be the equivalent of smoking two packets of cigarettes in one sitting.
Most electronic shisha pens do not contain toxic compounds, such as carbon monoxide, heavy metals (arsenic and lead) and other cancer-causing chemicals found in traditional shisha. However, some devices do contain varying degrees of nicotine depending on the brand. With the toxic compounds contained in traditional shisha, smokers are at risk of major diseases, such as cancers, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Electronic shisha pens do not produce smoke, so there is no risk of passive inhaling, and your risk of acquiring a smoking-related disease is decreased.
To puff or not to puff?
While the jury is still out as to long term effects, if you cannot bite the bullet and give up smoking completely e-shisha may be a way of weaning yourself off a more dangerous smoking habit. They are readily available in the local market but you should be careful about the quality you are purchasing. Many e-shishas are imported from China and may have a quality control issue. Much of the reasoning behind the safety benefit of vaporized nicotine lies with the purity of the nicotine itself. If other chemicals or additives find their way into the liquid nicotine cartridge, the risks could be even greater than that of tobacco cigarettes.