Hookah smoking is a social phenomenon, and like any social event, there are rules of etiquette. These rules are unwritten, and are mostly unspoken; usually, they are learned by experience. But if you’ve never smoked a hookah before, it’s useful to know what you can expect.
Hookahs are smoked in groups. In fact, even a small hookah is usually too small for one person to smoke alone, and the larger hookahs, with fittings for several hoses, are actually designed to be used in groups.
Basic Hookah Etiquette
Because a hookah is considered a service device, it’s important to remember that the pipe stays on the ground. You should always lift the hose up to your mouth, and never bring it down to you. As an aside, if you smoke cigarettes, and you absolutely must have a cigarette break, do not! light your cigarette from the hookah coal, or use the hookah tray to tap your ashes. This is considered exceedingly rude. It’s better to just step aside from the group and smoke your cigarette.
In the group, there is no set rule for who gets the next hit from the hookah. Smokers will usually just figure this out for themselves. It’s polite to let the person who owns the hookah you’re using have the first hit.
Make sure that you only draw air out of the hose when it’s your turn to smoke. Blowing into the hose can cause air to pass up through hookah and into the coal, causing the shisha to burn. A hookah is only designed for the air to flow through from the coal, to the smoker.
A hookah is also only designed to be used with the special shisha tobacco blends. Never smoke anything else in a hookah. These blends are meant to be drawn through the water, and, frankly, ordinary tobacco just doesn’t taste as good as the fruity shishas. Make sure, when you’re smoking, that the coal doesn’t get too hot; if the shisha tobacco burns, it’ll taste bitter.
When it’s time to pass the hookah around the group, never hand it directly to the next smoker. You should lay the hose down in front of the next person, and let him pick it up for himself. If you’re using a one-hose hookah, and everyone has their own mouthpiece, always take yours off of the hose before passing it. If you’re using a communal mouthpiece, make sure to wipe it clean first.
And that’s about it. A well prepared hookah can take quite a while to finish, even with four or five smokers, so take your time; it’s not a race, and there is no prize for finishing the bowl first. Hookah smoking is meant be social, so make small talk, relax, and have fun. And be a part of the hookah trend.