During the 16th century, when hookah was first introduced to India and the Middle East, it was generally regarded as an activity for the wealthy and the social elite. As hookah smoking became more and more of a social activity, the hookahs themselves grew larger to accommodate more people at once.1
In the U.S., hookah bar culture began in the 1960s and 1970s. They became a source of entertainment, reminiscent of the ancient cultures of the Middle East. People gathered to discuss current events, or just to unwind with a group of friends.
Today, hookah is still regarded as a social activity. Because it is a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to get together, it has gained significant popularity amongst youth, specifically college students. Generally, one group will share a pipe and try multiple flavors of tobacco in one night. The hookah hose is passed around the group, allowing anyone to smoke as they please.
The ease with which to share a hookah pipe has allowed it to become easily integrated into the college social life. Between 2000 and 2004, over 200 hookah lounges opened near college campuses or cities with a significant Middle Eastern population.2 Hookah cafes, bars, and lounges provide a convenient place for a large amount of people to meet up and smoke together. By specifically targeting youth and marketing hookah smoking as a social activity, hookah bars portray hookah smoking as more socially acceptable than cigarettes, especially since it is generally done in a group. This helps them attract curious nonsmokers and cautious first-time smokers, who may be wary of the consequences of cigarette smoking. However, these misconceptions about hookah smoking could be dangerous for smokers who don’t know any better. Evidence shows that hookah smoking has very similar health consequences as cigarette smoking, for the smoke still contains nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.3
2 Lyon, Lindsay "The Hazard in Hookah Smoke". (28 January 2008)