Opening the door of Hookah Mania bar you get shrouded in a luring and pleasant smell of grape, strawberry and apple. That is the flavor of numerous hookahs smoked in the bar tightly packed with patrons of various age and social background. Among them there are many young adolescents who are sitting very close to each other, puffing, joking and having good time after difficult workday.
However, such small and cozy lounges could vanish very soon, with the statewide smoking ban in public places going into force next January. Hookahs have a booming popularity among young adults and teenagers who state that it is not about smoking but the major thing is getting socialized. But now hookah business owners have found themselves struggling with restrictions in order to stay alive.
Two weeks ago North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue legally signed the bill that bans smoking in all enclosed public places including restaurants, cafes and other establishments that serve meals or drinks.
At the same time local hookah lounge owners are combining their efforts in a desperate attempt to prevent going out of business. They will try to reach the state senators in order to explain them that their businesses are based only on hookahs and to convince legislators to make an amendment to the law in order to exempt hookah bars from the ban like in case of local cigar clubs.
The Hookah Mania Jeffrey Mills said the isolation and selectness of cigar clubs and the disparity between the latter and hookah lounges are simply unfair and promoting social inequality.
Mills said the average patrons of cigar clubs are elder wealthy men, therefore they simply bought the right to keep smoking, whereas small business owners have been forced to cramp the Senate doorsteps asking for the exemption and that has been supposed to be the democratic free enterprise economy in that country.
In contrast to cafes and bars that would still have visitors because they would keep serving meals and alcohol regardless of absence of ashtrays, when the ban is implemented the hookah lounges will simply lose the sense of their existence. One hookah can be smoked by up to four people during an average of one hour for $10-15.
According to Middle East traditions, smoking the hookah is a way to get relaxed after a hard day or show respect for guests.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, was one of the several senators who attempted to convince colleagues to exempt hookah bars from indoor smoking ban, but she was unsuccessful since many cite the hazards of smoke to young people. Sen. Kinnaird stated she would keep negotiating with Senators to approve an amendment that would exempt hookah bars from the ban.
Mills who launched Hookah Mania lounge only a year ago, admitted the ban would force him to close the business as he would have no money to open a usual cafe instead of his lounge and in addition he would lose his recently purchased house as he would not be able to pay for it anymore.