Lure of smoking urn

Hookah bars cannot share space with restaurants

Lure of smoking urn

Dum maro dum: A file photo of youth enjoying smoke from a hookah at a bar in the City.

Once a favourite pastime of the affluent and a style statement for the elite, hookah smoking now imperils youngsters, especially teenagers, who frequent the handful of joints operating under the garb of eateries and restaurants in the City. The police only say these joints should enforce age restrictions strictly.

Although not illegal in the IT capital of India, hookah bars cannot share space with restaurants and cafés in the same room. Nonetheless, many such joints are operating clandestinely, attracting the youth who readily get hooked to the habit, on account of its 'coolness quotient.' The substance is offered in fruit flavours like apple, lemon, orange, grape, watermelon, sweet melon and strawberry.  

One such bar in Jayanagar 5th Block is a hit with youngsters. Those entering the joint for the first time can hardly make out that it serves hookah. The service is a bit furtive too as every newcomer is treated with suspicion. Of the two rooms which serve hookah, one is out of bounds for minors.

Although owners swear that a mere 0.5 per cent of nicotine and no tar passes through the water contained at the base of the pipe, studies conducted over the years belie this claim. Scientists estimate that a single hookah session is more dangerous to health than smoking 100 cigarettes. They say tar and heavy metals are essential components of hookah smoke.  

The youth, however, don't care. Rahul (name changed),  has just passed out of II PUC but started frequenting this hookah bar five months ago. His classmate Priya (name changed) accompanies him and the duo starts savouring the strawberry flavour. Rahul says he comes almost daily to the joint. "I come here around noon and hang out till evening," he says. The bar sees more rush in the evening and on weekdays, said Rahul.
"It's a great hang-out. I come here regularly with friends," Priya tells Deccan Herald.
Being a regular hookah smoker, Priya says not many bars insist on age proof. "Although they should not allow people like us, the checking is not strict," she says.

The duo share puffing and drink water after each spell. Three boys and a girl, all in their 20s, are enjoying the hookah session in the adjacent room.

A while later, scores of other youngsters, including some teenagers, throng the bar. A hookah costs between Rs 200 and Rs 300 depending on the flavour one chooses. The menu lists offer many varieties - special hookah costs Rs 250 whereas deluxe hookah is priced at Rs 300. The joint also takes party orders, but only for birthdays. They can deliver the hookah stand anywhere in the City at a price of Rs 1,200.

Many joints also mix narcotics in fruit flavours, but only reliable and trustworthy customers can access it.

According to Commissioner of Police Shankar Bidari, hookah bars can operate only in dedicated smoking zones in restaurants. “They should strictly enforce the age restrictions,” he says.

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