Are Hookahs Legal in the United States | Hookah Buying

Are Hookahs Legal in the United States

Communities across the nation have expressed alarm over the growing use of hookah smoking, which poses similar health risks as smoking cigarettes.

Hookahs are waterpipes used to smoke flavored tobacco and are popular among bars and lounges. Hookahs require special devices to heat the tobacco before passing its smoke through a water hose to be effective.


U.S. laws allow anyone aged 21 or over to legally smoke shisha tobacco; whether or not a hookah can be purchased and used at home is determined by state and local regulations.

Hookah lounges, which are often found in immigrant communities, often resist attempts to regulate them similarly to bars and restaurants. Such regulation efforts often stem from assumptions that hookah tobacco and its flavored e-liquids target young people; when in reality tobacco smoked through water pipes is no more harmful than cigarettes.

In 2019, Arnie Abramyan and other Los Angeles business owners started gathering regularly at hookah lounges to organize a grassroots campaign against a proposed ban on flavored tobacco, arguing that its introduction would put them out of business while ending centuries-old Armenian traditions in their heavily Armenian neighborhood. They engaged with lawmakers, hired lobbyists, and posted YouTube videos explaining their pipes’ history.

Age Requirements

Most states require you to be 21 or over in order to purchase and smoke a hookah, since its usage is considered similar to smoking regular cigarettes and thus illegal. Furthermore, you will likely have to present ID when entering lounges or purchasing shisha.

As more cities and states prohibit flavored tobacco – like kid-friendly flavors of e-cigarette pods that many health officials attribute to an increase in teenage smoking rates – hookah lounge owners have rallied to defend their businesses, arguing that prohibiting this form of nicotine consumption would violate centuries-old traditions.

Water pipes, commonly used by young people in cafes and lounges, have once again come under scrutiny in the form of debate. While some users perceive hookah smoke to be less dangerous than cigarettes, studies suggest it could still lead to addiction as well as exposure to cancer-causing tar, nicotine and heavy metals.


Smoking laws differ according to each state and city, from prohibiting all forms of tobacco smoking altogether, while others allow it as long as the business doesn’t serve food or alcohol. Hookah bars, as businesses that deal heavily in tobacco products, can be subject to similar regulation as cigarettes are.

Tujunga, California’s Armenian community was meeting regularly at Arnie Abramyan’s hookah lounge to strategize against a California state bill that would outlaw flavored tobacco sales due to concerns regarding vaping among teens. These business owners worried that such legislation would put them out of business as well as criminalise centuries-old traditions like shisha enjoyment.

The hookah (commonly referred to as a waterpipe or nargile) is a tobacco pipe in which smoke travels from indirect charcoal heating sources through water filters before reaching your lungs through a long, flexible tube with a mouthpiece. Often enjoyed in groups and shared among multiple individuals who take turns holding and adding coal; its shisha tobacco mixture contains tar, nicotine and cancer-causing heavy metals which may also contain flavors designed to mimic fruit or candy flavors.

Indoor Use

Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke tobacco or “shisha,” a fruit and vegetable-flavored tobacco blend, through its water bowl or hose heated using charcoal heat source and inhaled by users. While popular belief holds that hookah smoking may be less harmful than cigarettes, experts warn otherwise as its smoke still contains many of the same toxins and carbon monoxide as cigarettes do.

State Clean Indoor Air laws typically include hookahs within provisions restricting or prohibiting smoking in public places, while local ordinances may also govern their use. Maryland requires any establishment selling tobacco to be licensed as a smoking bar and meet specific criteria; for instance, its primary business must be selling such products while restricting other food and beverage sales.

Some states allow hookah lounges to become exempt from these policies by fulfilling specific criteria. These requirements vary by jurisdiction but often include earning at least a certain percentage of revenue through tobacco sales.

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