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Hookah vs. Vape: What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to the smoking game, then you likely aren’t yet familiar with the ins and outs of each and every different method of smoking. There are literally dozens of different smoking methods out there, and few people are personally familiar with more than a few of them.

Among the more niche smoking methods out there is hookah smoking, with a smaller cult following here in the U.S., but growing in popularity. But as such, many people don’t quite know the details about our favorite water pipe — the hookah.

This leads to a lot of questions and comparisons, helping people understand the similarities and differences between smoking methods. One comparison we hear all the time at MOB Hookah is people comparing vapes to hookahs.

While this comparison isn’t terrible, it’s far from perfect, and we’re going to break it down for you. Here is an overview of the major similarities and differences between hookah and vape.

What Is Vaping?

In order to get a better idea of the differences between hookah and vaping, we should start by clearly defining the two.

Vaping, as it is used today, is the process of heating and aerosolizing a liquid (commonly called “vape juice”) for inhalation. Vape juice can contain nicotine or THC, the active chemicals in tobacco and marijuana.

Vapes, also called vape pens, are the small, handheld devices that are used to vape. These vapes can be made to resemble pipes or cigarettes, or be designed to look like a pen or USB drive.

Vaping has soared in popularity in the last decade or two as it has become a cheaper, faster, less stigmatized method of smoking.

What Is Hookah Smoking?

It is only fair that we break down hookah smoking as well so we have a clear concept of what we are comparing.

Hookah smoking is the smoking of shisha or another smokable from a hookah pipe. A hookah pipe uses coals to vaporize the shisha and draws it through a base of water before inhalation, so it is a water pipe by design.

A hookah pipe is typically a larger device and utilizes a hose as the mouthpiece. Hookah originated in the Middle East and India and has slowly spread in popularity throughout the Western world, particularly here in the United States.

What Are the Similarities Between Hookah and Vape?

Before we dive too far into the differences between vaping and hookah smoking, it is probably best to discuss the ways that they are similar first. Hookah and vape don’t share everything in common, but there are a couple of key similarities that they share.

Flavorful Smokeables

The first major similarity that vape and hookah share is that they are both notorious for their inventive flavors. While you can get flavored nicotine occasionally via other methods like the sweet flavor of a swisher, there are no other smoking methods that offer you as much flavor variety and diversity as vaping or hookah.

Vapes tend to come with heavily flavored vape pods, containing an oil or liquid containing nicotine and other flavorings that are heated by the vape pen. Shisha, what you smoke from a hookah, is also heavily dressed with flavorings for a delicious smoking experience.

Non-Combustion-Based Smoke

Another way that hookah and vape are similar is that they both feature non-combustion-based smoke. This means that both vaping and hookah produce smoke not by lighting a smokeable on fire, but rather by heating a smokeable until it produces smoke.

The difference may not seem huge but it is actually quite significant. You can create smoke without combustion at much lower temperatures than combustion, which leads to less hot smoke, which in turn can be less harmful to your lungs and throat.

Popular Amongst Millennials and Other Younger Generations

The final similarity that hookah and vape share is that they are both growing in popularity amongst millennials and other younger generations. While smoking cigarettes and cigars has declined in popularity, vaping and hookah have apparently filled the void for these generations.

It is not uncommon to find younger smokers who would never smoke a cigarette, or rarely if they ever do, but hit a vape or hookah on the daily. This is just one of the trends that we see, and perhaps one day, hookah smoking will be just as common as cigarettes.

But that is where most of the similarities end, and the differences begin.

Vape vs. Hookah: Where’s the Water?

The first major difference between vape and hookah is the fact that a hookah is a water pipe, whereas a vape is nowhere close.

A water pipe is any smoking device that uses water as a cooling and or filtering element for the smoke. With a hookah, your smoke passes into the vase of water before bubbling up into your hose and lungs. This is a major difference, as the water is what filters, cools, and thickens the clouds for hookah smoking.

A vape pen on the other hand uses electric heating coils to heat the vape juice until it is aerosolized, without using water as a cooling or filtering agent. This is why you may find that hookah provides a cooler, thicker, denser smoke cloud.

How Does Portability Differ Between Vape and Hookah?

Another huge way that hookah and vape are different is the portability factor. Hookah pipes tend to be pretty large and weigh at least a few pounds, if not over ten pounds with water in the base.

Vapes on the other hand are typically handheld, and some are smaller than a pen or pencil. This means that it is incredibly easy to carry a vape pen with you whereas hookahs are not very portable. While there are small hookahs available, you wouldn’t be able to smoke it on the move like you could a vape (save for our car mason jar hookah, of course).

Is There a Difference in Nicotine Between Vaping and Hookah?

One of the major questions that people ask all time is if there is a big difference in nicotine between vaping and hookah smoking. This is important to understand so that you know how much nicotine you are consuming when you smoke.

There is no major difference in nicotine content between vaping and hookah smoking. Both are methods for smoking tobacco products typically, and thus they contain nicotine. You can however purchase vapes without nicotine, and nicotine-free shisha for your hookah.

While some may argue that you can take in lot of nicotine with how long you smoke on a hookah, you can smoke on a vape all day without thinking twice, so nicotine intake also depends on how long you’re puffing on each.

How Does the Experience Differ?

The final way that hookah and vape differ hugely is in the experience of smoking. Vapes are quick and easy, and a great tool for on the go.

Hookah, however, is and always has been a social activity, with some hookahs having multiple hose ports for sharing, and passing the hose and swapping tips not being uncommon. With hookah, you will get a social experience and join a community, where vaping is a much more solitary activity.

Hookah vs. Vape: The Takeaways

Hookah smoking and vape smoking are the two most popular methods of smoking for younger generations. Understanding the similarities and differences can help you decide which is best for you.

Both vapes and hookahs offer many different flavors, both contain nicotine, and both feature smoke produced without combusting the smokeable.

But vapes and hookahs differ outside these areas. For instance, a hookah is a water pipe, where vapes do not use water at all, nonetheless as a cooling and filtration medium.

Hookahs are also much less portable than vape pens, due to their size and weight. But hookahs are a much more social smoking device, designed for sharing and socialization.

If you are interested in getting your first hookah set up, or just looking to expand your hookah arsenal, MOB Hookah is the place for you. We carry only the highest quality hookah pipes, shisha tobacco, hoses, bowls, coals, and accessories for the ultimate in hookah experiences.

And remember to keep coming back to our blog for more content like this.


The History and Meaning of Hookah | Rakija Lounge

Vaping: How E-cigs Work (Infographic) | Live Science

Cannabis Science 101: The Complex Chemistry of the Bong | Leafly

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