The coal smolders as the ashes fall into the surrounding tray. The smoke travels through the pipe and is filtered through the water at the bottom. The water bubbles rhythmically as you take a puff. Music plays in the background, and laughter and conversation permeate the air, entwined with the sweet smells of the smoke being exhaled among friends. Welcome to your local hookah bar. “Water pipe,” “goza,” “hubble-bubble,” “borry,” “arhile,” “narghile” – whatever you choose to call it, there are a few things you should know on the first go.
It looks exotic because it is. “I smoke hookah occasionally, I like the buzz and physical action of the whole process… I like how it’s a complicated cigarette,” said Cindy Muñoz, an occasional hookah smoker. The hookah originated in the Middle East where it is based heavily in tradition as a social activity.
Know what you’re smoking. Shisha is very moist and sticky tobacco that has been soaked in honey, molasses or other flavors and is smoked in a hookah, according to SocialSmoke.com. “I like the flavor that hookah has, and its smoothness,” said Phillip Daniels, a frequent hookah and cigarette smoker. “The smell is also pleasant. I feel at peace when I smoke hookah. It’s a good stress reliever.” Shisha comes in many flavors, including mint, apple and coconut. Some places will offer fun flavors like Sex on the Beach, a flavor that can be spotted on the menu at Sumatra Hookah Lounge.
Let’s face it. It’s good, but not good for you. Just like those shots you took at your best friend’s birthday party, hookah isn’t exactly healthy for you. The aesthetic appeal of hookah smoking may cause people to believe that hookah is not as bad for them as cigarettes. That’s decidedly not so. “A single session of hookah use can produce between 1 and 50 cigarettes’ worth of toxins,” said Jon Law, chief operating officer of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.
Smoking hookah will not get you high. “Everyone comes in asking if it’s going to get them high. It’s nothing like marijuana,” said Luis Rodriguez, manager at The Darkroom Hookah Lounge. Hookah smokers may feel light-headed and slightly buzzed, or they may just feel relaxed. The way hookah makes someone feel just varies on the person and how much they’re smoking during one sitting.
Sharing isn’t always caring. Use a mouth tip! Share smoke, not germs. It’s sharing a milkshake, and everyone gets their own straw. Infectious diseases can be transmitted by sharing a hookah, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most hookah places will place a few mouth tips on the table to use when it is your turn to smoke.
Puff, puff, pass. For many, the best part about smoking hookah is being able to share the sweet smoke amongst friends. “I like to watch big puffs of smoke come out of my mouth and doing cool tricks with hookah smoke,” says Kiley Kruger, a weekly hookah smoker. While tricks like Kruger’s are fun to try on your own, amongst hookah smoking groups, hogging the pipe is a huge faux pas. Noel Stroud, a monthly hookah smoker, says, “It’s like smoking a flavored, never-ending friendship cigarette.”
Area Hookah Lounges
Sumatra Hookah Lounge
916 N Mesa
Mon-Sun 7 p.m.-midnight
Darkroom Hookah Lounge
1475 George Dieter Dr.
Mon-Thurs 8 p.m.-midnight, Fri-Sat 8 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Xhale Hookah Bar
1160 Airway Blvd
Tues-Sun 7 p.m.-midnight (closed Mon)
Rockstar Fusion, Sushi Lounge
1700 N. Zaragosa
Tues 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Wed 5 p.m.-midnight, Thur-Fri 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sat 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m.