Q. What are hookah pens?
A. A hookah pen is a relatively new product that's grown more prevalent recently. It's similar to an electronic cigarette, says Pat Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control for the North Shore-LIJ Health Sytem. While some adults use hookah pens to help cut down on cigarettes, some teens are using them recreationally, and experts worry they're sending a message that smoking is cool.
Hookah pens use a battery to heat flavored liquid into a smokelike steam; users inhale the vapor and exhale it. The devices have brightly colored designs and come in flavors such as strawberry, blueberry and peach-mango.
"They have all these colors on them; they have all different flavors in them. That is an obvious ploy to advertise to children," Folan says.
The "pens" are promoted as having no tar, nicotine or tobacco. They're sold on Amazon.com for $7 to $10 each, and at delis and drugstores. Many promise up to 600 puffs per pen.
The FDA doesn't have regulatory authority over hookah pens yet but hopes to propose a rule soon that could bring this type of product under its jurisdiction, says Jennifer Haliski, press officer for the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
"Until we can figure out exactly what's in these products, I wouldn't say they're harmless," Folan says. "Is it as bad as smoking cigarettes? I don't believe so, but advertising can fool us. Parents would be wise to advise their children not to use them."