Swindon Link ran an article recently about parents worried for their children who can obtain so called “shisha pens” quite easily, and they might get addicted to them. As a longterm user of electronic cigarettes who also works in a vape shop I have to say this is not something anyone should worry too much about. Of course no such thing should end up in kids hands, but according to Public Health England e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes, so there are far more dangerous things around.
These shisha pens are actually just regular electronic cigarettes with a fancy name. Usually they refer to a device similar in size to a cigarette or a cigar, usually quite poor quality, some not even rechargeable. They are by far not the most effective devices on the market and for most people they simply get boring soon.
Most of them also don’t contain nicotine so there’s nothing to get addicted to. The article mentioned that there’s no regulation about this so even the non-nicotine ones could possibly contain it. But frankly, nicotine is an expensive substance so there’s no real reason to include it. With cheap refills it’s actually more common that the ones claiming to contain nicotine don’t. Not to mention that the addictivity of nicotine is far less potent than people think. Cigarettes are rather addictive. But that effect comes together from lots of factors. Nicotine on its own is comparable to caffeine.
Recent studies also concluded that kids who experiment with e-cigarettes usually go for the nicotine free ones (for a non-smoker the nicotine ones are quite irritative and unpleasant) and have a short term experience with them. Since most of them are non-smokers they are not addicted to nicotine which motivates most vapers to keep using their e-cigarettes. For the kids it’s just a new fad. They almost always choose the cheapest, simplest devices and they don’t have the skills to properly use them. That and the inferior quality pretty much guarantee that they will have constant problems with the device, it will leak, stop working, loose its taste etc. It won’t be attractive anymore.
But even with a liquid containing nicotine and used regularly an e-cigarette would still do a lot less harm than experimenting with cigarettes, alcohol, sex or drugs. The user would inhale a vapour of propylene glycol and glycerol (both non-toxic, even found in baby wipes), and a small amount of flavouring and nicotine. It’s very hard to get addicted to nicotine in this form, and all these low amounts do is provide a slight stimulation. It is not a toy, children definitely should not play with such things, but it’s also not a demonic machine, and definitely not nearly as bad as a box of cigarettes.
It’s also not as easy to obtain them as it may seem. Since the first of October the sale of e-cigarettes and refills (even the nicotine free ones) for minors is against the law. Most vendors have never sold them for minors anyway but now they are simply not allowed to. Even the online shops usually require a declaration of age – and of course a debit/credit card. As long as worried parents don’t equip their children with cards they will have quite a hard time purchasing an electronic cigarette, even if it’s called shisha.
In a conversation after the article Swindon Link mentioned that they thought the different name (e-cigarettes and shisha pens) suggested that the manufactors/vendors try and find a loophole on the law, and not applying the legal ban on shisha pens by calling them something else. But after a quick googling it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. It’s hard to find an online shop that would even try to sell shisha pens as anything else than electronic cigarettes. They usually also declare that they don’t sell to minors. And regardless of their intentions the legal definition of an electronic cigarette still applies to these “sisha pens” so if any vendor would try and sell them as something else to minors, they can be reported to the authorities.