Is Hookah Even Legal?
There are a lot of very unique things about smoking hookah. It is one of the few truly social and community-oriented smoking methods anywhere in the world.
Hookah is also one of the most popular water pipes in the world, and is also likely one of the more complex and beautiful smoking apparatuses that exists.
But hookah is also unique for its special conditions under the law. Hookah smoking is regulated and monitored just other types of tobacco — while it is a special type of tobacco, it is still tobacco, and is completely legal in the United States for those old enough to legally consume tobacco.
There are a lot of misperceptions about the legality of hookah smoking in the United States and elsewhere, which is why we are here to tell you everything you need to know about the legality of hookah.
Is Buying a Hookah Pipe Legal?
The most common question that we hear at MOB Hookah is whether or not buying a hookah is legal. The answer is quite simple: yes!
It is completely legal to buy, sell, and own your own hookah for your personal use. It is also legal to own, buy, and sell hookah pipes for use in hookah lounges, hookah bars, or for use by you and your friends and family.
The only caveat is that age restrictions on tobacco products still apply exactly as they do for cigarettes and other tobacco products. You must be 21 years of age or older in order to legally purchase a hookah pipe in the United States (as of this article’s publishing date, anyway).
Is Smoking Hookah Legal?
Now we move on to slightly more complicated questions concerning the legality of hookah in the United States. You might be surprised to learn that many elements of hookah smoking, hookah lounges, and hookah bars live in a gray area of the law, with some fascinating features determining how they operate.
Is smoking hookah legal? Well, the short and easy answer is yes. But the truth is far more complicated. To get to the heart of the question, we are going to need to break this question down into several different, more specific questions.
Is It Legal To Smoke Hookah in Your Home?
Yes, smoking hookah in your own home is legal, once again assuming that you and anyone else involved in smoking is 21 years of age or older at the time of the session.
It should also be remembered that second hand smoke from hookahs is quite a large concern, and younger children should not be present in the room while hookah is being smoked.
You would do well to make sure that smoking inside of your home or apartment is not in violation of your lease if you rent. While not necessarily a law, for some rental agreements, smoking indoors can result in a loss of security deposit, or even eviction.
If you have a patio or backyard space, you can smoke there comfortably and legally if you are of age.
Is It Legal to Smoke in a Hookah Bar?
While you might just assume that since hookah bars are businesses that operate openly and advertise to the public, smoking in a hookah lounge or bar must be a legally protected. In reality, you would be surprised how unclear it is whether hookah lounges and bars are actually legal spaces to smoke or not.
The legality of smoking in a hookah bar is determined mainly by the state and local regulations surrounding smoking tobacco products in your area.
Hookah smoking is typically tobacco-based smoke, which is regulated under most all laws that regulate indoor smoking. It is very common for states, cities, or localities to have laws on the books that make it illegal to smoke in any public indoor space like businesses and offices.
There are some sets of regulations that offer exemptions for certain businesses, like exemptions for bars and restaurants, tobacco retail stores, and outdoors patios.
Each specific area and location has its own laws governing these laws and exemption status.
For instance, Alabama is one state that has no ban on public smoking, although many local governments and cities have their own restrictions.
In contrast, California has some of the strongest public smoking bans in the country, despite having hundreds of hookah lounges and bars across the state. California does offer exemptions for tobacco retail businesses, but even the sale of food can disqualify a hookah lounge or bar as a tobacco retail business.
In short, the reason hookah bars and lounges are allowed to continue operation despite the legal red tape around indoor smoking is due to the amount of time, effort, and resources that shutting down a business requires from the government. It is simply not worth the time to prosecute these types of violations at the expense of other, more pressing matters.
So, the answer is… kind of. Smoking hookah in a hookah bar or lounge may or may not be legal depending on where you live and the specific exemptions allowed in your area.
Is It Legal To Buy Shisha?
Another very intriguing legal gray area at the moment is the legality of buying and selling shisha tobacco. Shisha tobacco is the flavored tobacco combined with glycerin, honey, and flavorings, that you smoke out of a hookah. Shisha comes in all sorts of flavors, ranging from mint to fruit flavors, vanilla, cookies, and other fun and creative blends.
The trouble here comes with new laws being passed around the country banning the sale of flavored tobacco products to prevent tobacco companies from marketing themselves towards children.
There are debates going on at the moment over shisha’s interesting position in the conversation, as some laws specifically single out cigarette and vaping products, while others simply say that nonflavored tobacco products are legal.
For instance, both New York City and Providence, Rhode Island have passed regulations banning the sale of flavored tobacco products other than mint, menthol, and wintergreen with the exception of certain “tobacco bars.”
These laws do prohibit and ban the sale of flavored shisha outside of certain hookah bars where it must be smoked there.
Every area has its own laws on this, but as these laws continue to spread around the country to fight the vaping epidemic that is affecting minors, there will likely be more debate around shisha’s interesting position in the market.
Is It Legal To Smoke Cannabis From a Hookah?
The basic answer here is yes, it is legal to smoke marijuana from a hookah in your own home, assuming everyone smoking is 21 years of age or older and lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal for adults.
Technically, cannabis is banned under federal law, meaning it is technically illegal everywhere, even in states that have legalized it. But the likelihood of being arrested or otherwise bothered for smoking marijuana in the comfort of your own home in a state where it is legal is virtually zero.
Legality of Hookah: The Takeaways
While we wish it were different, the reality is that the legality of hookah smoking is a complex and ever-changing landscape that is only going to continue to change over the coming years.
It is legal to own a hookah pipe and smoke shisha tobacco from a hookah in your home as long as you are 21 years of age or older in the United States.
Hookah lounges and bars occupy a gray area of legality that very much depends on your local and state rules and regulations regarding smoking indoors in public.
Shisha tobacco is legal to purchase, although depending on your location and local regulations, certain flavors of shisha may be illegal outside of certain tobacco bars.
And smoking pot from your hookah is legal in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, although cannabis itself remains prohibited under federal law and can still be considered a federal crime.
Overall, hookah smoking, especially personal hookah smoking at home, is a completely legal way to enjoy hookah.
If you are looking to get your own hookah set up at home, then MOB Hookah is the perfect place to shop. We have everything you will need, from high-quality and creative hookah pipes, incredible shisha, and all the accessories you will need for a top notch home hookah setup.
And don’t forget to check back here at our blog for more great articles like this one!
Regulatory Options for Hookahs and Water Pipes | Public Health Law Center
With Public Smoking Bans in Place, Hookah Use Is on the Rise | The Atlantic