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Los Angeles City Hall SAVE HOOKAH Protest

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By: Mia De Graaf | Mail Online

Los Angeles considers shuttering celebrity-favorite hookah lounges as part of proposed ban on flavored tobacco in desperate bid to curb teen nicotine addiction

  • Los Angeles City Council will today discuss a proposed ban on flavored tobacco
  • The City Attorney recommends opting for the most stringent ban, with no exceptions
  • That would outlaw hookah lounges, favorites among celebrities such as Drake, Bella Hadid, Charlie Hunnam, and Shaquille O'Neal

Celebrity favorite hookah lounges in Los Angeles are threatened to close as the city considers banning flavored tobacco. 

The ban, to be discussed by the city council's Health Committee hearing today, is a bid to curb tobacco use among teenagers, as national data show rising rates of teens vaping, particularly opting for flavored e-cigarettes. 

A collateral effect of the ban will mean all the hookah lounges in Los Angeles, favorites of celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal, Drake, James Harden, and Miley Cyrus, will be forced to shutter.

The city is mulling six variations on a ban, from a total ban to one with exemptions, but the City Attorney Michael N Feuer recommends the strictest.

LA-based Bella Hadid, pictured using a shisha pipe, is one of many celebrities who hang out at hookah lounges, which may shutter following a flavored tobacco ban
LA-based Bella Hadid, pictured using a shisha pipe, is one of many celebrities who hang out at hookah lounges,
which may shutter following a flavored tobacco ban


Drake is a fan of hookah lounges, which may shutter in LA if the ban on flavored tobacco passes. Hookah pipes contain 15-20 percent tobacco, with flavorings such as mint or apple
Drake is a fan of hookah lounges, which may shutter in LA if the ban on flavored tobacco passes.
Hookah pipes contain 15-20 percent tobacco, with flavorings such as mint or apple


Shaquille O'Neal pictured at Habibi Cafe, the first ever hookah lounge in LA and a popular celebrity hang-out in Westwood
Shaquille O'Neal pictured at Habibi Cafe, the first ever hookah lounge in LA and a popular
celebrity hang-out in Westwood


James Harden has also spent time at Habibi Cafe in LA, whose owner Saad Fakher fears a flavored tobacco ban
James Harden has also spent time at Habibi Cafe in LA, whose owner Saad Fakher fears a
flavored tobacco ban

Hookah lounge owners are outraged.   

Arnie Abramyan, chair of a campaign group representing LA's hookah lounges, said: 'Hookah is a social ritual that is an ancient tradition for many minority communities which has become popular in LA due to the growing diversity of our population. 

'It is nothing like cigarettes and vapes.' 

Abramyan pointed the low rate of young people using hookah. CDC data released today showed that just 3.4 percent of teens use hookah, compared to a third of teens who vape, 7.6 percent who use cigars, and 5.8 percent who use cigarettes.

'There are good reasons for hookah’s lack of appeal to minors,' Abramyan said. 

'It can only be smoked through a large water pipe which cannot be concealed or carried around, which takes time and patience to prepare and about an hour to smoke. 

'Hookah is a social occasion, not a quick fix nicotine hit like a cigarette or vape.'  

Hookah lounges use flavored tobacco, known as shisha, with options such as apple, cherry or mint. 

A tradition of Arabic, Persian, Armenian, Indian, Turkish and African cultures, it is smoked through a large water pipe, usually in groups. 

Each pipe contains about 15-20 percent tobacco. 

LA's proposed flavored tobacco ban comes months after the California Senate rowed back plans for a state-wide ban, adding a clause that made hookah bars exempt because it is 'part of Middle Eastern tradition.'

It meant the bill lost the support of the American Lung Association in California, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, groups that are scrambling to curb rising rates of teen tobacco use. 

Mark Pampanin, a spokesman for Councilmember David Ryu, chair of LA's Health Committee, said Ryu's 'focus has been on ensuring that we pass a strong restriction that keeps young people from being roped into Big Tobacco.' 

Charlie Hunnam, who spends time in LA, pictured at a shisha bar in London
Charlie Hunnam, who spends time in LA, pictured at a shisha bar in London

Blanca Blanco enjoys a hookah with friends while out for dinner in Marrakech
Blanca Blanco enjoys a hookah with friends while out for dinner in Marrakech

A tradition of Arabic, Persian, Armenian, Indian, Turkish and African cultures, hookah pipes, which contain shisha, are smoked through a large water pipe, usually in groups. Pictured: Mike Tyson
A tradition of Arabic, Persian, Armenian, Indian, Turkish and African cultures, hookah pipes,
which contain shisha, are smoked through a large water pipe, usually in groups. Pictured: Mike Tyson

TEEN TOBACCO USE BY NUMBERS 
HIGH SCHOOL TOBACCO USE

  • E-cigarettes - 27.5%
  • Cigars - 7.6%
  • Cigarettes - 5.8%
  • Smokeless tobacco - 4.8%
  • Hookahs - 3.4%
  • Pipe tobacco - 1.1%

MIDDLE SCHOOL TOBACCO USE

  • E-cigarettes - 10.5%
  • Cigars - 2.3%
  • Cigarettes - 2.3%
  • Smokeless tobacco - 1.8%
  • Hookahs - 1.6%
 

'His concern as chair of the Health Committee is the health of our city and especially the health of young people.'

Pampanin added: 'It's not in [Ryu's] interest to harm local businesses or small businesses as an immigrant whose parents owned a small business.

'At the end of the day, he is not on the side of young people smoking so if someone's business model relies on that, that's not something we could support.'  

Hours before the committee hearing, the CDC released new data on teen tobacco use, showing 6.2 million high schoolers and middle schoolers use tobacco - an increase from last year.  

CDC director Dr Robert Redfield said the figures show were are losing the progress made to curb tobacco use and nicotine addiction.  

Eric McKandes, owner of Mid City’s Legacy Lounge, the first African American hookah lounge in LA, said hookah lounges are not to be blamed for the rise in teen nicotine addiction. They have been running long before the recent uptick in teen nicotine addiction, and are barely used by teens.

He says the move would simply deprive adults of an alcohol-free space to socialize.

'These lounges are social spaces for people who want a night out with friends without alcohol,' McKandes said.

'Why should it be OK to go to a bar and get drunk but not to a hookah lounge to share a cultural experience? Banning hookah lounges would be like banning Irish pubs.' 

Saad Fakher, who owns Habibi Cafe, the first ever hookah lounge in LA, a popular celebrity hang-out in Westwood, said: 'It would be shameful if people were to lose the social outlet that hookah offers because of unrelated concerns about youth vaping. Hookah is nothing like vaping or cigarettes.'  

By: Andrew Sheeler | The Sacramento Bee

Ad watch: Would proposed California flavored tobacco ban make an exception for hookahs?

 


As a bill to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products in California approaches a final vote in the state Senate, opponents of the bill — including Altria, which owns the tobacco giant Philip Morris USA — have mounted a television and digital ad campaign in a bid to stop the bill in its tracks.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 793 would ban the sale of tobacco products that carry a flavor profile other than tobacco, including menthol cigarettes. However, certain tobacco products would be exempted from the ban, including hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars valued at $12 or more.

One of the digital ads in circulation is targeting the bill’s key supporters, in this case Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

TEXT: “Assemblymember Kevin McCarty claims to be fighting tobacco use — then why is he pushing a bill that would protect flavored hookah? We can’t ignore the California Department of Health, which reports that California kids smoke more flavored hookah than flavored cigarettes.

Asm. McCarty, it’s time to STOP the flawed SB 793.”

 

ANALYSIS: SB 793 does exempt the sale of flavored hookah from the ban.

The bill’s author, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, explained during a July hearing on the bill why the hookah was exempted from the bill, saying that hookah is consumed using a large pipe that cannot be carried or concealed, and that its consumption is tied to “celebratory events on special occasions.”

“It’s not a daily use product. And that’s why it’s different than an e-cigarette, it’s different than a tobacco cigarette, and it’s different than a vaping device. And that’s why we felt that it would be appropriate to exclude them because it’s not the same problem as we find today,” Hill said.

According to a 2016 California Department of Public Health fact sheet, “recent declines in the prevalence of cigarette smoking among youth have coincided with an increased use of e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco.”

The ad campaign further alleges that passage of SB 793 would result in a loss of revenue of up to $1.8 billion over the next four years.

That’s unlikely, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, which analyzed the potential revenue loss for a previous version of this bill and found that in the first full year it would have been in effect, the state would have lost $218 million.

Since the bill has been amended to include some exemptions, “the revenue loss is slightly overstated,” according to an Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis of the bill.

By: Jim Williams | CBS Chicago

‘It Would Completely Kill It’; Chicago Hookah Lounge Owners Worried About Ordinance

CHICAGO (CBS) —   An entire industry said it could be forced to shut down in Chicago for good.

Not because of the coronavirus, but because of a proposed new law aimed at protecting children.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams has a story you’ll see only on 2 about a ban that would be bad business for hookah bars.

It would be a ban on flavored tobacco products in Chicago. Officials have called the dangers they pose to children a public health emergency. But 17 hookah lounge owners in Chicago are asking for an exception for their businesses. Without it, they say they’ll have to close.

Fifteen years ago Rayid Khalil started his business where he hoped customers could relax.  A hookah lounge in Lakeview, where they smoke flavored tobacco.
“It would be a place I would want to go after a long day of work,” Khalil said.  “We have a pretty large following.”

But first, the pandemic shut down Khalil’s House of Hookah temporarily. And now, Khalil said a proposed city ordinance is an even a bigger threat.
“I mean, for me personally, it would take a business I’ve worked incredibly hard, paid a lot of taxes over the years and employ a lot of people and it would completely kill it.”

The ordinance would ban flavored tobacco products to protect children. The Centers for Disease Control said e-cigarette use or vaping has skyrocketed among teenagers.
A large bipartisan group of officials has cited its dangers from President Trump and the First Lady to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “This is absolutely a public health crisis,” said Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) a sponsor of the Chicago ordinance. “It’s about saving lives. “Flavored tobacco is geared toward middle school and high school age children,” O’Shea said. But Khalil said he and 16 other hookah lounge owners in Chicago make sure they keep kids out. A person has to be 21 to enter his establishment. No children allowed inside.
“Not at all, whatsoever. Not even for a bottle of water,” Khalil said.

He calls hookah a centuries-old tradition, important to middle eastern communities. Could hookah lounges stay open with a different kind of product?
“No. Hookah tobacco is a fruit-based tobacco. So you’ll have flavors like apples, lemon, cherry,” Khalil said.

When asked if he would be willing to support the ordinance if hookah lounges were exempt, Khalil said yes. “I’m happy to discuss our options on this,” said Ald. O’Shea. He added that he and his colleagues will take a look at Massachusetts, where lawmaker there did make such an exception. A hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held next Monday in the City Council’s health committee.

By: Patrick McGreevy | Staff Writer

Tobacco industry could ask California voters to overturn ban on flavored tobacco sales

Tobacco industry could ask California voters to overturn ban on flavored tobacco sales
SACRAMENTO —  California voters could be asked to overturn a new law banning the sale of flavored tobacco after opponents notified the state Monday of plans to seek a referendum on the measure.

A notice was filed with the state by an attorney who has represented firms including R.J. Reynolds, which led the opposition campaign to Senate Bill 793. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Friday and it takes effect Jan. 1.

Attorney Aaron Agenbroad is one of a group of three people who submitted papers to the state attorney general’s office for preparation of a title and summary for a possible referendum petition. He did not respond to requests for comment on who is behind the referendum.

If opponents qualify the referendum by collecting the signatures of 623,212 registered voters, the tobacco ban would be placed on hold until voters are given a chance to weigh in, possibly in 2022.

The referendum is being pursued by a new political group called the California Coalition for Fairness. A representative for the group did not respond to questions seeking the identity of its members.

“We agree that youth should never have access to any tobacco products, but this can be achieved without imposing a total prohibition on products that millions of adults choose to use,” the coalition said in a statement. “This law goes too far and is unfair, particularly since lawmakers have exempted hookah, expensive cigars and flavored pipe tobacco from the prohibition.”

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the author of the bill, denounced the plan to seek a referendum.

“California fought Big Tobacco and won,” Hill said. “This shameless industry is a sore loser and it is relentless. It wants to keep killing people with its candy-, fruit-, mint- and menthol-flavored poison. The adults who are hooked on nicotine aren’t enough for Big Tobacco; it wants our kids too.”

The new law bans the retail sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol. Reynolds ran a television ad campaign against the legislation that drew criticism from Black community leaders for claiming the bill singled out people of color.

Hill introduced the legislation in response to a spike in teen use of electronic cigarettes and flavored tobacco products.

Hill cited a 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that 67% of high school students and 49% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the prior 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time.

Another proponent listed on the referendum filing, Jaime Rojas, was a spokesman for a tobacco industry campaign to overturn a ban on flavored tobacco in San Francisco. He also could not be reached for comment.

The filing was not a surprise to Jim Knox, managing director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Inc.

“The tobacco industry has always shown it will go to any length to deceive the public about its deadly product,” Knox said. “We are confident that if it gets on the ballot, that California voters will see through this despicable tobacco industry ploy to continue to lure kids into a lifetime of tobacco addiction.”

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