Cities snuffing out Hookah Lounges

As hookah lounges pop up in the Twin Cities, city leaders are intervening with stricter tobacco laws, citing health concerns.

Hookah lounges have found themselves increasingly unwelcome in the Twin Cities as more communities try to snuff out the growing Middle Eastern-style smoking.

Hookah advocates are fighting back, saying they’re victims of discrimination. Last week, Saeed Kiblawi’s tobacco license for his Flamezz Hookah Lounge was revoked by St. Anthony city leaders even though he successfully fought the city in court.

“Why is it they don’t want us there?” said Kiblawi, 32, who moved to the Twin Cities from Lebanon 17 years ago. “I honestly can’t see any reason but my background.”

City leaders counter that they tightened the tobacco law for the same reason other cities have: protecting people from the hazards of smoking.

“It wouldn’t have made any difference who it was,” said St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust. “We would have still looked at it as a public health issue.”

Hookahs, which are water pipes for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha, are prominent among Minnesota’s Middle Eastern immigrant population and are growing in popularity among young adults. As hookah spreads, other states such as Oregon last year have tightened tobacco laws to restrict it. Minnesota hookah lounges rely on a provision in the 2007 state ban on smoking in bars and restaurants that allows tobacco shops to offer sampling, or smoking inside — although cities can restrict it.

Cities including Minneapolis, Fridley, Roseville and St. Anthony have all done so. Faribault and Shoreview are currently mulling similar sampling bans.  read the rest (Source: Star Tribune)

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