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.
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.
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.
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.