When Aladdin’s Hookah Lounge set itself up on Water Street two years ago this summer, a lot of people balked at the idea – that won’t fly here. “It’ll go up in smoke” for being too niche for downtown St. John’s.
They were wrong, and it won’t be a lack of business that runs this shop into the ground; it’ll be illogical new government legislation that comes into effect in July of 2017.
If you haven’t heard of a hookah lounge, it’s a place where people gathering around a table to share a multi-hosed “hookah” to smoke shisha. Shisha is a nicotine-and-tobacco free blend of herbs, available in different flavourings.
The owner of Aladdin’s Hookah lounge feels Bill C-35’s intent to close hookah lounges makes no sense. And he’s right: how the bill pertains to hookah lounges in fact doesn’t make sense. The banning hookah lounges in our province is rolled up in a bill that also prohibits smoking e-cigs in bars and public spaces.
The latter is fine, plenty of people don’t want people blowing clouds of anything in their face, no matter how “healthy” the plumes of smoke supposedly are. Others dislike the scent. Public spaces should be free of anything a significant amount of people don’t want in there, especially if there’s a chance it affects their health and safety.
But banning a hookah lounge, a place where the fundamental intention of attendance is to sit and smoke something with your friends, c’mon, who is in there inhaling smoke against their will? The very purpose of being there is the shisha smoke. By being present in the building, you’re aware there will be smoke.
Government should not be able to ban an activity, a decision, a form of socializing and getting out of the house. They shouldn’t be able to take away from the public, nor shut down Yusef’s store.
It adds another layer of wrongness that smoking shisha is a cultural phenomenon for certain demographics, that will no longer be present in our increasingly multi-cultural city.
Aside from arguably stepping on our right to enter a hookah lounge, and stunting our progression towards a more multi-culturally enticing province, the health-based rationale here is a little bunk: bars are allowed to sell alcohol, which comes with its own myriad of health concerns. Not to mention alcohol alters behaviour, and, is addictive. Shisha is non-addictive or intoxicating.
Yet Health Minister John Haggie is firmly declaring hookah to be “simply another form of smoking.”
No one’s saying smoking shisha is good for you, but it’s not as bad as other vices, and even if it was, the very nature of a hookah lounge makes its health concerns a moot point: Anyone walking into a hookah lounge, like anyone drinking a glass of whiskey, is actively agreeing to what might become of their decision.
By the very nature of a hookah lounge, anyone walking in there knows they’re going to be exposed to shisha smoke. Ban hookahs and shisha in bars and public spaces, sure, absolutely, but ban hookah lounges? Why? No one in a hookah lounge is complaining of second-hand shisha smoke! If they are, they know where the door is and they must be lost or out of their mind to be complaining.