If you’re a cigarette smoker, you’re likely to be aware of the significant health risks associated with your habit, so you might be on the lookout for other options that might help wean you off cigarettes and eventually allow you to quit for good.
As such, you may have been considering vaping or smoking a hookah instead and wondering about how both of these activities work – so to give you all the info you need, in this post, we answer the question, hookah vs. vape: what’s the difference?
What is hookah?
Let’s start by introducing hookah smoking – what exactly is it?
Hookah, also known as shisha, is a traditional method of smoking flavored tobacco that’s common in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, India and Iran (formerly Persia).
Technically, “hookah” refers to the large water pipe that is used for smoking while “shisha” refers to the tobacco.
The shisha itself is a special kind of moist tobacco that’s been soaked in glycerin, molasses or honey and other flavorings that can include fruit or herbs.
The tobacco is then heated over charcoal at the top of the pipe so that it releases smoke but without being combusted. This is then breathed in through a hose, which causes the smoke to pass through a water bowl, cooling it in the process.
This practice has traditionally been seen as a way of forming bonds with others since it is a social activity that encourages people to relax together and engage in conversation.
In recent years, smoking shisha has become popular in Western countries, and shisha lounges have sprung up in many cities – and for many of the same reasons.
Nowadays, many people enjoy smoking a hookah with friends, even if they wouldn’t touch a cigarette or any other form of tobacco in other circumstances.
What is vape?
Unlike hookah smoking, which has a long history and cultural significance in the countries where it is traditionally enjoyed, vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, appearing only in the last couple of decades.
Vapes – also known as e-cigarettes – first appeared as a substitute for real cigarettes and were intended as a tool to help wean people off tobacco, which is known to contain huge numbers of compounds that are incredibly harmful to health.
Despite the name, when you vape, you don’t inhale vapor. Instead, a liquid is heated inside the vape, which converts it to an aerosol, which you then inhale.
The PG and VG are both responsible for carrying the flavors when the juice is converted to aerosol.
At the same time, PG helps create the so-called “throat hit” that replicates the feeling of taking a puff on a cigarette while the VG is responsible for forming large clouds of vapor.
Devices for vaping are now available in all shapes and forms.
The earliest models were designed to look like cigarettes (and were known as “cigalikes”), but most modern vapes no longer have this appearance.
A good example of this kind of vape would be the Jack’s Flask 9000 Puffs from up-and-coming brand Spiritbar.
This vape’s design resembles a pirate’s flask, evoking a life of adventure and excitement on the high seas. It represents the perfect combination of convenience, ease of use and quality of experience, exemplifying just why such disposable vapes have proven so popular.
Hookah vs. Vape: What are the main differences?
Smoking shisha in a hookah and vaping are two completely different activities, and really, the only similarity is the fact that both involve inhaling something into your lungs.
Here a summary of the most obvious differences:
1. Tradition and cultural significance
We’ve already mentioned that smoking hookah has a long history and is seen as a culturally significant activity in many countries.
Vaping, on the other hand, has only existed for a short time and has no traditions or cultural significance attached to it.
2. Communal, shared experience vs. individual activity
Hookah smoking is seen as a communal activity. Setting up a hookah for smoking is almost a ritual in itself, and most people wouldn’t bother preparing a hookah just to smoke by themselves.
This shared experience is also a big part of why shisha has become so popular in the West since it’s a fun activity to share with friends.
Vaping, on the other hand, is an inherently solitary activity.
Although you can certainly vape with other people, it could be argued that it’s even more of an individual activity than smoking traditional cigarettes.
This is because, as all smokers know, going outside and smoking a cigarette with somebody else is a common practice among smokers – but vaping with someone else doesn’t have the same sense of shared experience.
With vaping, there’s no ritual of taking a cigarette out of the packet, perhaps offering a cigarette to somebody else, sharing the lighter and then chatting together as you smoke.
Instead, you just pull out your vape, take a couple of quick puffs and you’re done.
3. Tobacco vs. aerosol
Finally, there’s what you’re inhaling, something we’ve touched on already.
With hookah, it’s the smoke from flavored tobacco while with vaping, it’s aerosols mostly made up of PG and VG.
So as you can see, smoking a hookah and vaping are two altogether different activities.
Hookah vs. Vape: Are they dangerous?
An important question concerns the safety of these two activities, so let’s think about this next.
Many people who don’t otherwise smoke still enjoy sharing an occasional hookah with friends, and many people believe they are safer than smoking regular cigarettes.
However, since shisha is a form of tobacco, smoking it is inherently just as dangerous as smoking any other forms of tobacco, although this comes with a couple of caveats.
If you only smoke shisha very infrequently, you won’t be exposed to the harmful compounds in tobacco anywhere near as often as if you smoke 10 or 20 cigarettes a day.
As a result, you are far less likely to suffer the major health issues that commonly afflict smokers – although that’s not to say it’s impossible.
Furthermore, when smoking a hookah, many people don’t inhale the smoke into their lungs – rather, they simply draw it into their mouths to taste it and then blow it out, much like you’re supposed to do when smoking a cigar.
This is also slightly less bad for your health than inhaling tobacco smoke into your lungs.
Shisha tobacco also contains nicotine, the chemical in tobacco that makes it addictive – indeed, shisha smoke contains around 1.7 times more nicotine than regular cigarettes.
However, again, since people often only smoke hookahs socially – and because you don’t usually smoke them alone – this means people are far less likely to get addicted to nicotine through this activity unless they start smoking cigarettes as well.
Since vapes don’t contain any tobacco, they also don’t contain any of the more than 7,000 harmful compounds that are known to be found in tobacco.
Vapes can – and often do – contain nicotine. However, nicotine is not especially harmful under normal circumstances and is mainly just responsible for the addictive properties of smoking.
The problem is that since vaping has only been around for a relatively short amount of time, we’re still not certain of its long-term health risks.
Both PG and VG are accepted as being safe for human consumption – but this is when they are included in foods.
Much less is known about what happens when you convert them to aerosols and inhale them, and more research needs to be carried out in this area.
Then there’s the flavorings. Again, we don’t know enough about the long-term effects of inhaling many of the things that are used in vape flavorings – and sometimes, if you buy sub-standard vapes, you might be inhaling all kinds of nasty chemicals.
However, with more reputable brands, such as the abovementioned Spiritbar, you’re far less likely to be ingesting anything that’s known to be toxic – and reputable companies like this no longer use things like diacetyl, the ingredient thought to be responsible for “popcorn lung”.
What we can say, though, is that even if vapes are harmful, they’re almost certain to be a lot less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes – or even smoking shisha tobacco in a hookah – so if you’re trying to quit, they can be an excellent healthier alternative.
Two very different activities enjoyed in very different circumstances
As we’ve seen, smoking a hookah and vaping are two very different activities, and they are both enjoyed in very different circumstances.
Hookah smoking is a social activity to be enjoyed among friends. It’s also something that takes a bit of setting up, so it’s not really a viable alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Vaping, on the other hand, is quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. It’s also a lot healthier than smoking tobacco, despite the possible health risks it might pose, so if you’re looking for something that will help you kick your tobacco habit, vaping could be just the tool you need.