The Hookah Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary group of business owners, professional leaders, and community members working together to promote the overall growth and development of California businesses and preserve hookah cultural heritage that has existed for hundreds of years. We are here to foster and promote the economic and general welfare of the entire area by stimulating growth and cooperation between all facets of business, government, social organizations, and the general public.
Campaign to Save Hookah Culture
Hookah is not the Problem
Hookah is a part of a cultural heritage that has been around for hundreds of years. Historically, the Hookah’s origin traces back to India. It surfaced in the form we know today around the 15th Century when Indian Glass manufacturing began as a result of the exporting of glass to India through the British East India Company. The glass base was called hookah. Its mystique spread to Iran where special strong tobacco was used with it called “Ajami”. It rose to fame under the Ottoman Empire’s rule around the time of Murat V in 1623-1640. The sultans of the age took portraits with their Nargiles and it became a status symbol of the time. Hookah was smoked after royal dinners and at diplomatic meetings. The Egyptians introduced the use of a variety of tobacco flavors that are now considered part of the hookah experience. Today, Hookah smoking tends to be at the center of cultural, business and social meetings.
A hookah is an instrument for smoking flavored tobacco. Hookah is also known as narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, shisha and goza depending on local custom and tradition. During the session, the smoke is passed through a water basin – often glass-based – before inhalation. A hookah waterpipe is approximately 1 – 4 feet tall and very difficult to conceal in your pocket like an e-cigarette. To set up a hookah it takes approximately fifteen minutes to assemble, which is something of a ritual. Minors cannot easily assemble a hookah waterpipe in school or at home without being noticed. Hookah is not as accessible as vape which can be easily concealed in a pocket and smoked at any time without prep.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently noted in their guidance that “waterpipe tobacco does not appear to have the same ease of use particularly on school grounds as [e-cigarette] products and cigars, due to the cumbersome nature of the related equipment.” Additionally, the FDA has noted that these products “do not appear to have wide-spread, significant youth use at this time.” Revised Compliance Policy Draft Guidance, at 19.
In Governor Newsom’s executive order address on September 16, 2019 he stated that “hookah is not the problem in classrooms”.
Hookah’s are not being confiscated in schools and there is no teen hookah epidemic. Hookah is not the problem. Please don’t let our cultural practice become collateral damage in the war against vape.
Arab, Armenian, Persian, Turkish and Indian communities would be affected by a tobacco flavor ban. A flavor ban would cut at the heart of many hookah using adults partaking in their culture and undermine businesses owned by immigrants who often times support their entire family through their tobacco retail shops or hookah lounges.
A flavor ban would cause the flavor tobacco user to go underground to purchase products off the black market, whose participants are not concerned about checking IDs or complying with other health and safety regulations. As seen in our history with prohibition, organized crime will flourish which will result in an increase of resources used towards law enforcement and decrease in taxes from tobacco sales. The recent deaths seen on the news due to THC vape were purchased off the black market. A ban will only drive people to the black market or to on-line sales where many believe the problem of under-age sales of vape stems. Alternatively, those unable to purchase flavor tobacco may be forced to turn to cigarettes, which everyone including the FDA agrees is much more harmful.
Instead we propose that the state, cities and counties consider responsible and reasonable legislation that focuses on preventing youth access and devise a plan to educate teens and their families about the harm of vaping and lastly, have better enforcement of retailers that do not properly ID. However, with a tobacco flavor ban, we ask that traditional Hookah tobacco be granted a cultural exemption and not just in hookah lounges. This will allow hookah users to enjoy their cultural practice within their homes, which is often the case.