Coffee shops turn into illegal hookah bars

By Abinesh H Published on Jun 18, 2018 05:24 PM IST


Chennai: The recent closure of hookah joints in the city by the police has shed light into why stern action is being taken to ban the substance and its sellers.

"Hookah culture came into Chennai in the late 2000s, the same time coffee shops were becoming a hit among youngsters. Some popular joints at Kader Nawaz Khan Road were the go-to places for good food and round of hookah. People young and old thronged these joints which openly offered hookahs with various flavours on their menu. These coffee shops paved the way for hookahs joints to open. But these places were not spared as raids were conducted and shutters were downed," said Kalyan S, a coffee shop owner at Kilpauk.

In December 2014, the Supreme Court ruled against the ban on hookah lounges in India. However, the apex court created strict norms which were to be followed. These including fixing of CCTV cameras in places where hookahs were served.

Lately, raids are being conducted at coffee shops to check whether the venues are following the norms.

According to an inside source who worked in a coffee shop which was raided recently, "our outlet functioned from 11 am to 11 pm. But, after the lights were turned off, a select crowd was allowed to use the facility. Hookahs and food were offered at double the prices. Only around 10 to 15 people were allowed and they were mostly known to my boss. It was very secretive and to the outside world, it looked like our shop was closed for the day. Inside slow music and smoke were doing the rounds."

He added: "Alcohol and cheap drugs like marijuana were also brought in by customers. We never sold it at our venue. The area cops were paid to show a blind eye. But recently, the shop got raided and we were closed."

According to popular beliefs, hookahs which originated in the Middle East were smoked for leisure and opium was used.

In India, many say hookah's flavour does not contain any nicotine but this is not true as studies say the level of nicotine in the mixture is 100 times more than a single cigarette.

The question, however, is with these joints being raided, owners wonder why the hookah flavours are being sold openly in markets around the city.




What is it?
A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. The tobacco is heated in the bowl and smoke is filtered through the water.

The moist and sticky tobacco is soaked in honey or molasses, with a variety of flavours such as apple, watermelon and strawberry.

Apart from nicotine, hookah smoke contains higher levels of arsenic, lead and nickel, 36 times more tar and 15 times more carbon monoxide than a cigarette.