King County health officials are trying to snuff out Seattle-area hookah lounges, sending notices ordering six of them to stop allowing customers to smoke the water pipes at their businesses.
“Over the last year or so there’s been quite an increase in the number of hookah lounges opening, so we’ve had to ramp up our investigations,” says Scott Neal, tobacco prevention manager for the King County Department of Health.
Neal says the action comes after multiple investigations determined the businesses were violating the state’s indoor-smoking ban. While many hookah bars have skirted the ban passed in 2005 by claiming they operate as private clubs, officials say the six were open to the public and operating more like nightclubs that simply charge a cover fee.
It’s a particular concern because the water pipes and flavored tobacco have become increasingly popular with young people.
“It’s unfortunate that we see a rise in any type of smoking and with youth. The latest survey showed that King County high school seniors actually smoke hookah at a higher percentage, 15 percent, than traditional cigarettes at 12 percent,” he says.
Each of the businesses have been ordered to comply immediately and pay a fine of $100 per violation. The health department says it could take additional action, including taking them to court if they continue to allow smoking.
The businesses sent letters by the health department, include Casablanca Shisha Lounge; Da Spot Hookah Lounge; Medina Hookah Lounge; The Night Owl; Sahara Hookah Lounge; and Seattle Hookah Lounge.
Smoking hookah is an age-old past time popular in middle eastern and Indian cultures.