The result — sale of hookah has come to a standstill — until the corporation issues fresh guidelines.
Hari Krishnan, manager of a hookah lounge-cum-café in Nungam- bakkam, says, “We stopped selling shisha from the ninth of this month. The corporation came on a surprise check and asked us to stop selling hookah.”
The news came as a surprise to all the shisha lovers in the city. Shashank Jain, a regular visitor to hookah lounges, says, “The authorities are not realising that by enforcing such stringent rules, they are dampening the spirit of the city. First, they asked pubs and discos to shut by 11pm, and now this. They don’t understand that they are making room for things to be done in an illegal way.”
The corporation might be taking these steps to curb public nuisance, but the lounge owners have their defense.
Says Hari, “The corporation doesn’t know the chemistry and science behind shisha. They assume it involves tobacco and nicotine. But, the truth is that we use herbal fruit flavours and no tobacco at all. Some of the flavours do have 0.05 per cent of nicotine, which the government has approved.”
Owners are hoping for some specific guideless to be issued. A lounge owner, on the condition of anonymity, says, “Hookah is extremely popular among youngsters and not having it is not good for our business. According to regulations, we are allowed to sell hookah under the restaurant license itself — as long as we have seating capacity of more than 30, we don’t serve it to minors, we have proper ventilation and we don’t have the smoking area at the entry and exit of the place.”
However, the authorities have a different story to tell.
“The crackdown was part of our regular check. We found that young school kids were indulging in bad habits in such places and most of them were not major. We were also suspicious about the substances used in the hookah. The case is in the court and we are waiting for the final decision,” says an official from the Chennai Corporation.