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Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2005 - 1:51 p.m.

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But Isn't a Hookah Illegal????

To answer loner-blues question... no it is not illegal to own a hookah in the United States.

A hookah is a sort of water pipe. It has a glass bottom, which one fills with water, esp cold water. Some put ice, lemon slices, or alcohol into the water. One puts the tobacco into a clay bowl at the top of a tall metal tube that fits into the top of the glass bottle. The tobacco is covered by tinfoil (into which one pokes little holes for air) or a metal screen. A charcoal (either one shaped like a piece of wood, or a round flat compressed charcoal... one brand is 3 Kings) is lit and put on top of the foil.

This heats the tobacco, and produces smoke. There is a flexible hose with a mouthpiece comint out of the side of the glass bottle. When you suck on it, the air comes into the tobacco via the holes, picks up the smoke produced from heating the tobacco. The tobacco travels down the metal tube into the water (the water has to be high enough to cover the bottom of the metal tube), and bubbles up through the water into the airspace of the bottle, and out of that airspace into the hose and to your mouth.

It makes a lovely soothing blooble blooble blooble sound and you can watch the masses of smoke curl in fascinating forms in the air. Much like hanging out and watching flames in a campfire. Very relaxing.

The tobacco doesn't actually burn, and thus it is not so hard on your throat as smoking a cigarette. Also the smoke loses much of its "crap" in the water, and is cooled down and humidified. For an example, I don't smoke cigarettes, which I find smell horrific. I can take two tokes of pot before my throat and lungs are screaming "fire! fire! save me save me!" I can smoke the hookah (also called shisha or nargile depending on the language/country) nonstop for an hour or two (fun for watching movies... look ma! I can blow smoke rings!!).

The hookah tobacco is in no way illegal. It is cut wet (not dried) tobacco that is mixed with either molasses or honey, and flavouriing. It is sort of clumpy and goopy and comes in a plastic bag inside either a box (100g) or a tub like margarine (250g).

It has waaaaayyyyy less tar and nicotine than cigarette tobacco. The packages say 0% tar, 0,05% nicotine. It does still say "smoking is a major cause of lung disease and cancer" so be forewarned. However my cigarsmoking friend says that hookah is the herbal tea of smoking. He's right. I do get a weee buzz off of it, probably lack of oxygen in that I don't normally smoke, and a bit from the nicotine. I certainly don't feel stoned however. More like having one beer.

The tobacco comes in flavours such as strawberry, melon, kiwi, apricot, melon, green apple, cappuccino, mint, hazelnut, vanilla, and on and on and on. Some people mix flavours to get things like "strawberry/melon" for example.

You can go into MiddleEastern areas of town or restaurants, and have lovely little snacks of vine leaves, tabouleh, pita with hummus etc, and have a hookah of your choice of tobacco brought to you. The hookah will have several hoses on, to share with your friends. For hygiene, there are disposable plastic tips on the hose. Some places will put your tobacco into a fruit (hollowed out pineapple etc) instead of the regular clay bowl, which gives even more flavour. An employee will walk around and top up your charcoal as needed, sort of like refilling a coffee.

Very fun. No more illegal than a pack of Players Light. Less bad for your health, more social. In fact, Canada is really strict on importing tobacco, and lets you bring 200g of cigarettes over the border dutyfree if you have been in the States for a month, but I have brought 500-750g of hookah tobacco and declared it, and they just wave me through... probably because of that weight, much is the wet molasses in it. They don't seem to consider it "serious" tobacco.

My favorite tobacco brand is Al Fakher, which was what I was on about yesterday. Click back to get some links to buy it. It is from the United Arab Emirates. Usually about $8-10 US per 250g.

OK, so that's the end of my "is it illegal" question. Nope. Of course, like brownies, it could be made illegal, depending on what illegal substances you add to it. I don't add any.


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previous meanderings - future past

Goodbye Michael. May your next life be kinder to you. - Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009
Taking Care of Your Cows - Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009
Saint Joseph robs the cradle and eats spaghetti - Sunday, Jun. 14, 2009
sticky notes and broken irises - Friday, Jun. 12, 2009
The FOODCOMMANDER - Monday, Jun. 08, 2009


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