San Francisco News

San Francisco cracks down on hookah lounges

Friday, July 15, 2011

The smoking ban in San Francisco has been in place for years, but a change to that law last year is now having an impact on places where a certain kind of smoking has continued. The city is cracking down on hookah lounges.

Kamel Asfour is happy to demonstrate how to use a hookah at his family's Polk Street tobacco shop, which is right next door to their Hookah Dream lounge. Just opened last year, it was ordered to close down as of Friday, because of state and local laws against smoking in enclosed workplaces.

Asfour says his dad put $100,000 into the lounge and isn't sure what to do now.

"A lot of families are going to go broke and don't know what is going to happen now," Asfour said.

The hookah is a water pipe, used for smoking flavored tobaccos through a long tube. Multiple smokers can share the same hookah using different mouthpieces. The smoked product is a combination of tobacco, molasses and fruit flavoring.

Asfour says it is nothing like cigarette tobacco.

"It's safe; it's not bad at all," he said.

But the Department of Public Health disagrees.

"There's a lot of science reports out right now saying exposure is equal to or greater than cigarettes because of the number of people and amount of time," Department of Public Health spokesperson Janine Young said.

Young says she has sent letters to 20 enclosed hookah businesses, and there are 20 more under investigation.

Cafe Chanta has until Tuesday to remove all smoking equipment, and Cairo Nights is ordered to stop indoor smoking immediately.

In San Francisco anyway, hookah smokers probably won't be going out as much.

"You can smoke in your own home and in a multi-unit building you can smoke in your own unit as long as your front door is closed," Young said.

The owner of Kan Zaman Cafe on Haight Street says he has hired legal help to try to find a way to keep his hookahs going. The city says it is committed to working with hookah businesses to keep them open.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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smoking, san francisco news, heather ishimaru
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