Hookah’s are as ancient as the Pyramids or the Hokey Pokey. Since the dawning of said hokey pokey many people have come up with a variety of etiquettes for the smoking of hookah. There are more that come with the territory, but for the newbies I have taken the liberty of writing out the basics.

No matter what the activity, it’s important to note that the owner of the place in which you are participating is the one in charge of all cautionary measures. Remember, you are there to have a good time, but if it’s your apartment then you are there to have a good time and make sure that your house doesn’t get burned down. “Of course!” you say whilst whipping your hair backward and sipping your martini “How else would we smoke hookah if not by the rules of the household?” and, while I admire your taste in cocktails I have to tell you that there are a ton of ways that this can go wrong. I have been in situations where the hookah provider thought that it was “totally fine” if they dropped burning coals on the carpet because “sh*t happens” and “it’s [his/her] hookah, man! Why do you have to be so uptight about it.” Several black splotches in the carpet later it became very apparent that this person was just a run-of-the-mill jerk. Most people are not like this, but if you do encounter them it’s important that you read this article. Later, you can show it to them and point out their obnoxiousness in writing.

So now we know that ultimately, the person who lives at your hookah-smoking-ground-zero is the one in charge of most everything. I say most because it’s important to respect what belongs to which person. Hookah is meant to be shared and, unless you paid for it, consider every puff a favor from those who helped make it happen.

Whether it be a sort of “in da cub” fun that so many youngsters enjoy today or the more relaxed feel of a Chinese opium den, the atmosphere should always be fun. Hookah shouldn’t be rushed and it shouldn’t be aggressive. The tobacco is there to help you appreciate your surroundings and your friends. You can smoke at parties, hookah bars, or Bedouin tents, but no matter what, if you are not enjoying it you should stop. It’s your responsibility to make sure you are having a good time, but it is equally your responsibility to contribute to the good time of those around you. Contribute to the conversation and don’t hog the pipe.

On another note, don’t treat the pipe poorly. If you find yourself getting unpleasant looks from people after you puff the hose you need to check whether you are holding if for too long. Still getting weird looks? Then you are probably mouthing the hose too much. Remember: it’s a tobacco pipe, not a date to the junior prom. Pull your lips and tongue back. What you’re going for is the mouth shape you might create if you were mimicking an old cartoon tortoise, who presumably has a young mouse character to mentor. The goal is to minimize the saliva left on the mouthpiece and still maintain a tight seal over the opening. This will become much easier if you observe the more experienced hookah-ers around you.

Music is highly recommended for any such outing, but be selective. Not everybody wants to watch forty youtube videos that fail to buffer; for this reason I’ve personally adopted a policy of not watching online videos with people and instead opting to sending them as links on social networks. Stick to music that doesn’t interrupt conversation and doesn’t demand too much attention, unless you are in a scenario where hookah is not the primary activity, in which case you need to defer to an expert on that. For example, if I am waterskiing and trying to simultaneously smoke hookah I’m not sure what music I would play, but if I am just sitting and playing cards whilst passing around a pipe I might play something like “Dust is Gone” by MO or an instrumental like “Elsie” by Nickel Creek. Music is crucial to setting the tone, so even if you’re not in charge of the music being played you can suggest some. I do have to warn you, though, T-Pain in any of his many forms is not acceptable hookah music. If you start hearing the opening to “I’m N Luv” you need to get out of there. Get out of there now.