AROUND 250-300 hookah parlours are expected to re-open in the city after the Supreme Court ruling Monday ending a ban on them in Mumbai.
The BMC had initiated a crackdown six years ago against coffee bars, bistros and any joint serving hookahs, following a campaign run in 2008 by former mayor Shubha Raul. The Sena leader had then alleged that teenagers were getting addicted to hookahs, which contained nicotine.
Speaking to Newsline, Raul said she would now write a letter to the BMC’s health committee to issue guidelines for the functioning of hookah parlours. “We have to respect the SC ruling, but these parlours will only misguide young students. I will write a letter to the health committee and also take up the issue in the next meeting. Even though the parlours will be reopened, the BMC should ensure they follow certain norms. For example, every hookah parlour should put up a notice inside that hookah contains nicotine and the BMC should not allow coffee joints to also run hookah parlours,” Raul said.
In 2010, the BMC had also cancelled licences of coffee shops or eating joints serving hookah. The only exception was for places with separate smoking zones where youngsters below 18 were not permitted.
Disappointed with the ruling, activist Vincent Nazareth, head of NGO Crusade Against Tobacco, said they would continue their fight. “It is a sad we have gone back to where we started from. I haven’t seen a copy of the ruling yet, but we will not stop fighting against the use of tobacco. We will soon decide our next course of action. We will also think on filing a review plea with the apex court,” Nazareth said.
In 2012, Nazareth had moved the Bombay High Court stating that tobacco, in its many forms, was affecting the youth of the country.
Meanwhile, even as the city hoteliers welcomed the ruling, many feel it will be a while before the parlours start functioning again. “We respect the SC decision and welcome it. No doubt hookah parlours are a lucrative business, but it will definitely take time for people to re-open or plan to start new joints. Of the 20,000 eating joints in the city, hardly 2 to 3 per cent are hookah parlours,” said Niranjan Shetty, chairman, AHAR (Association of Hotels and Restaurants).