Introducing NHCA

The National Hookah Community Association (NHCA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving hookah culture and businesses across the United States. We promote and protect the interests of thousands of businesses that make or sell a part of the unique social and cultural experience that is hookah.

Hookah is a centuries old cultural and social ritual, originating in the Middle East and India where it was used to show hospitality and openness and bring people together. Today, hookah is also an integral cultural staple for many minority communities in the United States.

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The NHCA is committed supporting and defending its members by:
  • Promoting understanding of the culture, communty and business of hookah to society and politicians
  • Protecting hookah from regulation that threatens the hookah economic and social community.
  • Working with lawmakers to support regulation that supports good practices and high standards in our sector.

Our culture and our sector are at risk, usually from legislation targeting the misdeeds of giant multinational companies selling very different products to ours.

Until NHCA was formed, hookah was one of the few business sectors in the United States that was not represented in political decision making by a trade association.

Leadership and Board of Directors

Arnie Abramyan
George Jonson
Rima Khoury
Chris Hudgins
Board Member

History of Hookah


Hookah is thought to have originated inthe 16th century in Persia. Some of the earliest descriptions of hookah as we recognize it today, date back to the 1600s from European travellers to the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great in India. Hookah use spread following established trade routes throughout Asia and to the Middle East. In the Arab world hookah became highly popular in cafes, bazzaars and souks.

In these communities, hookah, rather than alcohol is a social custom around which people have historically come together, connected, bonded, conducted business and resolved differences.

The word hookah is thought to be dervied from the Indian word for ´glass base´, and although its manufacture has modernised and quality improved, the overall experience has been very similar for hundreds of years.

Historically, two distinct forms of hookah have been used. The first is moist, flavored hookah molasses which are heated through an external heat source – usually a few small cubes of charcoal - to produce a flavorful aerosol inhaled through a waterpipe, also known as a hookah pipe. The chacoal is separated from the hookah by foil or a heat management device which avoids burning the molasses. Today, this form of hookah is by far the most common globally.


The second, known as black molasses, is preferred only in Egypt and is not available in the United States. Black molasses are drier than flavored molasses and contain more tobacco. The charcoal must be placed directly on the tobacco itself, creating smoke which is then inhaled through the pipe. This product is very limited availability in outside Egypt, is not available in the United States and is not represented by NHCA.

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Hookah Use

Flavored hookah tobacco and non-tobacco products are consumed through a large water-pipe in which the hookah isheated to a maximum of <200C, passed through a water vessel and inhaled through a hose. Hookah tobacco is a mixture of tobacco leaf flavors, fructose, and glycerine. The tobacco content is around 20%, the lowest tobacco content of any tobacco containing product

Hookah is placed in a bowl on top of the water pipe and covered with foil or a heat management device which supports a few small cubes of charcoal. After being heated, the aerosol generated is inhaled through a bowl of water, creating a diffused and flavorful vapor. It is sometimes assumed that the purpose of the water is to filter the aerosol, but this is incorrect. The water creates suction in the device and enables the aerosol to be pulled through the pipe. Water’s purpose in hookah is functional and necessary.

Setting up a hookah session takes time and patience, and the session itself can take between 45 minutes and an hour. The preparation of hookah is a skill in itself and a poorly prepared, or incorrectly used hookah, may hinder the experience.

For these reasons, hookah is a fundamentally different than cigarettes or e-cigarettes which are characterised by ease of use, solitary use and high usage frequency.

Cultural Significance

In many parts of the Arab world, hookah is a part of traditional culture and is considered a social custom, a centerpiece in social gatherings, celebratory events, business meetings, and us often offered to guests as a sign of hospitality and respect. These cultural traditions continued to be practiced among the Arab community (and others) in the United States. Traditionally, it is common for one hookah to be shared among a group of people with a single hose which is passed around the group. Social convention dictates that when being passed from one person to another, the mouthpiece and hose should be folded back on itself in such a way that the mouthpiece is not pointing at the recipient. Today, disposable mouth tips are ubiquitous and as a precaution against COVID-19, people are not sharing hookah and are using disposable hoses. Most cafés in the Middle East offer hookah. Hookah cafés are widespread and are common social gathering places just like bars and clubs throughout the world. In the United States, many hookah cafes were originally established to cater for ethnic communities that have roots in the Greater Middle East, North Africa and the Asian sub-continent. However, it also plays a role in helping diverse cultures to connect with and understand each other in increasingly multicultural societies.

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