What Is a Hookah?
Hookah, or shisha, has been around for hundreds of years, beginning sometime during the mid-1000s in the Middle East. Since then, the elaborate and beautiful water pipes have found a place in many cultures and social circles.
Recently, hookah has become a popular smoking method, especially for young people. This is for a couple of reasons. The first is that hookah tobacco is generally flavored with honey, molasses, or fruits to make it sweeter than cigarettes. Second, and probably most important to many, is that water pipes make for a very social activity. Hookah lounges have become increasingly popular for groups of friends to enjoy sweet tobacco and good company. The very design of hookahs lends itself to being social. Many water pipes are fitted with multiple stems, or mouth pieces, so the tobacco can be shared with many people at one time without having to pass around a single mouth piece. Hookah lounges are now places to gather where friends can socialize and choose from a menu—yes, a menu—of shisha flavors prepared by people who are treated almost like chefs.
It is an easy thing to understand why many people are drawn to shisha. Just walking into any smoke shop, you’ll most likely be greeted by a variety of water pipes on display. They are often beautiful pieces of equipment, made of glass and metal, and adorned with pops of color and silver or gold decoration. But beauty is not all hookah has to offer—they also offer tantalizing flavor and a unique smoking experience.
You will hear many people refer to hookahs as “water pipes.” This is because the smoke you inhale is filtered through a vase, which contains water. In this chamber, the smoke you inhale is cooled slightly before you take it into your lungs. The water and cooling creates a dense and flavorful cloud of smoke, which simply cannot be recreated by cigarettes. Again, hookah is known for its delicious flavors. Cigarette smoke can have an acrid aftertaste, which can become unappealing after a while. Hookah, on the other hand, enhances tobacco flavorings by adding a hint of fresh sweetness in the form of fruits (such as coconut or apple), herbs such as mint, or natural sweeteners like honey.
Hookah is an alluring form of smoking because it requires time and patience. It is more than lighting up a cigarette on the go to get a quick fix of nicotine. Hookah is designed to be a hobby, to encourage the smoker to stop and enjoy. There is pleasure in choosing the tobacco, lighting coals, sitting around the pipe with a group, and savoring unique flavors.
Hookah Health Concerns
When smoking hookah, some people mistakenly believe that by filtering the smoke through water, they are somehow filtering out some of the negative chemicals and substances found in combusted tobacco. This is a complete misconception. Smoking hookah still exposes the smoker to just as many chemicals as cigarettes—if not more. Further, hookah tobacco contains nicotine. Nicotine, of course, is an addictive substance with health risks of its own.
Finally, since hookah is made to be enjoyed over a long period of time in a single sitting, people who indulge in hookah will take an average of 200 puffs. The average cigarette smoker takes 20 puffs out of a cigarette at a time, so hookah users are exposed to higher levels of the harmful chemicals in combusted tobacco smoke as well as more nicotine.
The volume of hookah tobacco smoked in a single sitting causes its own issues, as smokers are automatically more susceptible to health problems associated with smoking tobacco. For example, the average smoke inhalation from a cigarette session is 500-600 mL of smoke—in a hookah session, that number soars to 90,000 mL according to the official CDC website.
With gaining popularity, it’s understandable that more and more people are concerned over the possible health risks of indulging in shisha. If you’re planning on making hookah a hobby for you and your friends, you might want to consider them yourself.
For all of these reasons, and more, shisha enthusiasts are turning to e-hookah, just as former smokers have turned to e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Because e-hookahs don’t combust anything, unlike traditional shisha, many people have high hopes that e-hookah means less health risks combined with all the enjoyment of traditional shisha.
It is important to note, however, that e-hookah is still an incredibly niche submarket of the vaping industry. Where few conclusive studies have been done concerning e-cigarettes, even fewer have been done concerning e-shisha.
How E-Shisha Works
In traditional hookah, there is a bowl at the top of the hookah pipe. In this bowl, you will place your chosen tobacco and flavorings. On top of your tobacco, you place a hot coal, separated from the tobacco usually by a perforated piece of aluminum foil. Beneath the bowl is a plate used to collect ashes and dead coals from previous uses.
The longest part of the water pipe is the body, gasket, and valve. These pieces connect the bowl and plate to the base of the pipe. The base of the hookah, also called a vase or water jar, is a basin which contains a certain amount of water.
Finally, the last piece of your hookah is a hose and a mouthpiece. Each pipe is different. Some have a single hose and mouth piece, while others are designed to be used social and can have upwards of four hoses and mouthpieces for ease of sharing.
A traditional hookah works like this: First, you light the coal and place it on top of a piece of aluminum foil to suspend it over the tobacco in the bowl. Once you inhale through the mouthpiece, air is pulled through the coal into the tobacco, which produces smoke. This smoke passes through the body of the pipe and into the vase. The smoke passes through the water and cools and condenses; finally, you inhale the flavorful smoke into your lungs. Having taken one long drag from the pipe, pressure changes in the body and continually pulls air through the coal so the process continues.
An electronic hookah works slightly differently. Essentially, if you are not using a shisha pen, you will attach an e-shisha head to your already set up water pipe. This way, you can still enjoy the artistry of a hookah of your choice, since you’ll be using the body and stems to smoke your e-shisha.
When you are using e-hookah, there is no need to use coals to heat up your tobacco and no smoke will be given off. Instead, the head you attach to your water pipe is powered by a substantial battery. This battery will heat coils inside and vaporize the e-liquid of your choice. This vapor will then follow the same path as traditional shisha and come out through the mouth piece after it travels through the water base.
Since the beginning of the vaping market with e-cigarettes, companies have been attempting to replicate smoking. E-cigarettes are fitted with LEDs, soft faux filters, white paper bodies, et cetera. By using the same hardware as traditional hookah, e-hookah allows for an authentic smoking experience.
E-hookah pens work differently, of course. If you’re familiar with the anatomy of an e-cigarette, you’re already ahead of the game.
E-hookah pens are generally disposable pieces, so you’ll only have them a short while before switching to another flavor. They are fitted with a flavor cartridge—take your pick, there are tons out there!—a battery and an atomizer. Once you turn your device on, your atomizer heats the e-liquid in the cartridge and creates a vapor, which you inhale.
Pens versus Desktop Models
For those looking to enjoy e-shisha, there are a few models on the market. Again, it is a new frontier for the vaping market, so as it gains popularity, more products will be available for purchase. Currently, the first decision you’ll have to make it either a stationary hookah head or a shisha pen.
For portable hookah flavor, there are electronic hookah pens, also called hookah sticks, shisha pens, or e-hookahs. These pens include a cartridge, atomizer, and a battery—very much like a traditional vape pen. Since shisha is a social smoking activity, many pens will be packaged with multiple mouthpieces so you can pass the pen between friends without having to worry about passing saliva between the users.
Looking at e-shisha pens and e-cigarettes, you might wonder what the difference is. They’re essentially the same design, the same parts, what makes them different? The main difference between e-cigarettes and e-shisha pens is this: e-shisha pens are meant to savor flavor, e-cigarettes are for a nicotine fix. Hookah pens are not meant to be used constantly like an e-cigarette. More often than not, they are purchased without nicotine and in certain flavors that translate well into a vapor.
Because of this, an e-shisha pen will produce plumes more vapor than an e-cigarette to mimic the smoke given off by a water pipe. This is the main difference, along with a lack of nicotine, which sets e-hookah pens apart from e-cigarettes.
Aside from this, you’ll find that most e-shisha pens—labeled as such—are disposable models. They are meant to be used only once before you throw them away and try a new flavor. This is perhaps the most common complaint among e-hookah pen users: they simply don’t last very long. Because they produce such a thick vapor, they consequently use more battery power than a disposable e-cigarette. Out of an e-shisha pen, you might expect 500 puffs before having to switch to a new one. Since hookah is meant to be savored over a long period of time, this can be frustrating for many users.
As mentioned earlier, hookah sticks come with designated flavors, all ready to go. Mostly, you will find fruit flavorings, since these are the most common in traditional hookah. The pens are decorated with a variety of unique designs, some even equipped with an LED light, much like their e-cigarette counterparts.
E-Hookah Heads or Bowls
Given the nature of hookah, you might wonder why someone would want to take it “on-the-go.” Isn’t the whole point of shisha to savor the experience? The fruit flavors? The sweetness of honey or molasses and the freshness of coconut, mingled with a strong tobacco? As we’ve mentioned, smoking shisha is often a social experience. Even if you’re just smoking by yourself, there is a pleasure in the ritual of smoking from a water pipe: the mixing of flavors, lighting the coal, taking the first drags from your stem. Shisha simply was not meant to be an activity of convenience, and e-hookah customers know this. Thus, the e-shisha heads were created.
E-hookah heads are, as we talked about earlier, attached directly onto your already existing water pipe. They sit in the bowl where your tobacco and coal would be traditionally. You can therefore have the experience of smoking through authentic stems and a water vase, while also ridding yourself of the harmful smoke or chemicals in traditional combusted hookah tobacco.
As the e-hookah market has grown, more people are opting for e-shisha bowls or heads because they allow the user to purchase and use the artistic and elegant water pipe as well as savor the experience of smoking shisha in their own home.
E-hookah heads are not meant to be portable, so they allow for a much larger and more powerful battery. Ultimately, this translates to a better vapor, a better flavor, and a better overall experience smoking e-hookah.
How to Choose the Right E-Hookah For You
If you’ve gotten this far in our guide, chances are you’re seriously considering purchasing some e-hookah device of your own…but maybe you’re not sure what you should be looking for. When we say the e-shisha market is small, we mean it is small when it comes to quality products. There are plenty of knock-offs and cheap devices out there, which have been produced quickly to fill the demand in the market. But these devices won’t deliver on the lofty promises they print on their boxes. So, in order to find a quality e-shisha vaporizer, what should you be looking for?
The first, always, is battery power. The battery is the engine of your device and it is absolutely critical that it performs well. This is especially true of e-hookah because a main component of e-hookah is plumes of white, dense vapor. This can only be achieved is a powerful battery is working in tandem with a quality atomizer. You’re looking for something with a high mAh, to ensure a long battery life for long smoking sessions and a high wattage.
Second, decide if you’d like a disposable or desktop model and how each works for you. If you’re not planning on taking your device out and simply enjoy smoking shisha at home, definitely invest in an eye-catching water pipe and an e-hookah head. If you’ve never tried e-shisha before or only want to sample new flavors from a particular company, try a disposable model with a fitted flavor cartridge instead. Disposable models can be a fantastic inexpensive way to test the quality of a new brand, while e-hookah heads are likely designed for intense usage and a quality experience.
Third, you’ll get to look into the fun aspects of making an e-shisha purchase. This is the look and feel of your device. If you’ve gone with a disposable model, does the mouthpiece remind you of a hookah stem? Is it metal and shaped to fit in your mouth? Is the pen body easy to hold and will it fit in your purse or pocket for portability? Is it attractive? That is, do you like the outward design and color or would you prefer something more minimalistic?
If you’re going with a desktop e-hookah set-up, your options are entirely open. The e-hookah head is relatively small and will make little impact on your hookah aesthetic. Here, you are free to choose any water pipe you find particularly beautiful and use it as often as you’d like.
Finally, as always, we recommend quality. Quality generally means you’ll be paying a higher price for your products, but it cannot be stressed enough how important it is that your device performs well or that your e-liquid is flavor-saturated. Next, we’ll recommend some places we think you’ll be able to find the perfect e-shisha for you.
Where to Purchase Electronic Hookah
If you’re looking for a place to get started on your e-hookah search, it might be difficult to find the right product for you. The vaping industry is still very young and there has been little product creation in the way of e-shisha; however, we are happy to say that one brand comes highly recommended already: ePuffer.
Quality e-hookah is difficult to find, period. But, it is especially difficult to purchase anywhere but online, not to mention that e-commerce can generally guarantee you are getting the lowest price out there. This is certainly true in ePuffer’s case. They do not have a brick and mortar presence, but they are available online—which means savings for the customer.
Luckily, ePuffer has become a little famous for offering vaporizers that are off the beaten track. Along with their e-cigars and e-pipes, they’re now offering an e-hookah unlike others on the market: a quality e-hookah head that you are free to fill with any of ePuffer’s e-shisha flavors.
Like other ePuffer products, the e-hookah head is a sleek design that won’t detract from any water pipe you choose to use. It is easy to use: simply take off the magnetic cap and fill with e-liquid, let it simmer for five minutes, and then start vaping.
We mentioned battery power as one of the most important aspects of an e-hookah and ePuffer delivers not once but twice. The e-shisha head is equipped with two 2600 mAh batteries for a combined 5200 mAh, so you can use your e-hookah for hours at a time without having to worry about recharging.
If that wasn’t enough, we were very pleased to find that the ePuffer e-hookah head sports a 0.2 Ohm coil for insane vapor production and temperature control—up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit—so you can get the absolute best flavor out of any e-shisha liquid you choose.
We love ePuffer because they offer incredible quality at a low price and their e-hookah head is no different. It will run you about $100, with a free e-juice included. Elsewhere, this might be the price of a simple e-cig starter kit or vape pen.
Also on their website, you’ll find tons of e-shisha flavors for the e-hookah head, so you’ll always have something new to try. Although, as one caveat, this e-hookah head has not been on the market long and we are unsure how long it will last before the atomizer needs replacement. However, if ePuffer’s other products are any indication, this e-hookah head should last for many uses.
Overall, we’re pleased to see that ePuffer has taken the initiative to begin producing quality e-hookah in an otherwise barren e-hookah market and we are very excited to see where this product leads in the future!