Today’s blog will probably be the most important one I ever write so sit down and light a hookah, let’s talk about the future of our hobby. We’re talking about hookah education. I am not talking about how to properly enjoy a bowl, but the flavor ban and the fight to save hookah! The laws being enacted in California and nationwide could have a fatal impact on our hobby. Yes, I said FATAL. If you have gotten this far then clearly you care about the preservation of hookah. There are a few things you HAVE to do right now before reading any further.
Call or Email your representative!
HR 2339 - The Reversing The Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act . This act is moving in the House of Representatives and threatens to ban all flavored tobacco federally, effectively ending hookah at a national level. You need to contact your local representative to ask them for a cultural exception for hookah. You can find your rep by going to house.gov and typing in your zip code. Below are the phone call script or the email script depending on which you prefer. Please do this it is extremely important!!
Please find below a suggested script for calling your Member of Congress. One of their staff will answer the phone. Please be polite and leave your name, business, and message with the staffer – requesting a “carve out” or exemption for hookah.
Hello – I’m (First/Last Name) from (City/State). I am a small business owner/operator for (Name of Business).
I’m calling in opposition to Congressman Pallone’s bill on tobacco flavors, H.R. 2339.
The bill that was just passed out of Committee will effectively shut down the legal hookah industry in the United States.
If this bill does not carve out hookah – which is only flavored – it could close my business and cost our community jobs. It also threatens the cultural practices of many minorities in our community.
Please ask Congressman/Congresswoman _____ to seek a carve out for hookah from Congressman Pallone.
If you wish to write your Member of Congress please find a suggested script below. Each Member of Congress has an online portal and/or email address you may use to submit a message. Their website will direct you, or you may call them.
Dear Representative __________,
I am writing today to let you know that H.R. 2339 threatens the future of my business _____ and jobs in our community. I am seeking support for a carve out of hookah from the flavored tobacco ban.
H.R. 2339 bans flavored tobacco. All hookah in the United States is flavored. This would eliminate the entire industry, including lounges, shops, and suppliers. This bill would also disproportionately affect minority-owned businesses and deprive many immigrant-Americans of a cultural practice in a social setting. Hookah is smoked in the home and in lounges out of a 3-foot water pipe. It has one of the lowest incidence rates among youth who smoke.
Please ask Chairman Pallone to preserve our cultural practice and small businesses by carving out hookah from the flavor ban.
Follow Hookah Chamber!
Like the Hookah Chamber of Commerce. Join Hookah Chamber’s Facebook group. These are the people at the center of the fight to save hookah. The least you can do is like their page and join their group to stay up to date on the latest information on the fight. Please, if they ask you do something in support of the fight and you are able to do so, DO IT!!! You can find additional information on their website and you can you help support the cause by buying merchandise.
How did we get here?
It's safe to say that legislation of this kind has been in the works for quite some time. That being said, there wasn't an urgency to push these laws through legislation at the local, state, or even federal level until recently. For example, in my hometown of Philadelphia, legislation to ban flavored tobacco was introduced in June of 2018. However, the state budget changed and they took the power over tobacco laws out of the hands of the city and that was that. Nothing else was heard about it since and it was, more or less, considered dead…until December 2019. At this time, seemingly overnight and without warning (purposely held secretly so that there couldn’t be opposition), this dormant law was revived and passed. This kind of quick and swift action has been happening all over the country, especially in California. So what changed? In April of 2019, investigations by the state health departments of Illinois and Wisconsin tracked 53 cases of vaping-related illnesses. From this point, cases popped up all over the country and panic set in like wildfire which in turn pushed legislation against vaping to progress rapidly. I’m not going to dive deep into the details of the vape panic but in the end it was determined that the majority of cases were caused by vitamin E acetate found in illegal THC cartridges. Ironically, these findings have not slowed down the push to legalize marijuana at a federal level. In fact, the damage caused by this illegal product has been used as an argument for legalization. The question I pose is shouldn’t legislators also see the danger in making a once totally legal product illegal like they seek to do with flavored tobacco products? Unfortunately, the ball has started rolling and I am unsure that it will stop.
That’s vaping, how did hookah get involved?
We all know that hookah is fundamentally different so it's frustrating to us that it has suffered from legislation that was clearly set forth to eliminate vaping. It’s happening because at the core of both vaping and hookah is flavored tobacco so hookah has become an unintended collateral of the vaping epidemic. There are a number of different articles you can read on this topic but I think the one written by Vice highlights hookah’s standpoint really well ( “Vape Panic Is Accidentally Killing Hookah Too” ) . The title describes the situation our hobby finds itself in due to the new legislation perfectly. Lawmakers don’t know or understand the difference between the two that they are voting on. There is no better example of this than a video posted by Hookah John inside the Irvine, CA city council meeting on the flavor ban. John brought a hookah to the meeting with which Mayor Christina Shea responded: “Thank you for bringing that because it did help me understand. I just honestly had not seen one before.” The Hookah Chamber won a hookah exemption at this meeting. This is the core of our fight to save hookah...education. Hookah is not the problem. It's not the reason adolescents are turning to flavored tobacco products and it's not being snuck into schools and hidden from teachers/parents.
How can we save hookah?
The Hookah Chamber is fighting every day for a hookah exemption from the legislation. Hookah is a social and cultural hobby enjoyed by adults. It doesn’t deserve to become collateral of the vaping panic. They cannot do it alone and they need all the support they can get. Please follow them on Facebook. If there is a vote happening locally that you can attend, ATTEND! If there is a vote happening electronically against legislation, VOTE! Talk about your hobby with friends, family, and colleagues even if they don’t smoke. Mayor Shea’s comments are telling of what the general public knows about hookah. We are fighting for a cultural exemption for hookah, show them that culture !Set one up with them so that they can see that it is a time-consuming process, not just a fix that you carry with you throughout your day. We need to show the general public that hookah is the equivalent of an adult having a drink at home at the end of a long day and that lounges are the equivalent of socializing at a bar. The future of our hobby and industry literally depends on it!
MoHo supporting the fight!
In conjunction with this blog post, Moses Hoses is releasing key chains that say “Save Hookah” and “No Flavor Ban”. These items can be combined with leather lanyards to put on your car keys or with leather handle holders to be hung from your hookah setup. We will be donating 50% of proceeds from these items directly to the Hookah Chamber to help them with the fight. In addition to the monetary donations, these items will help spread awareness. We hope that when you carry them around with you that people ask what they are for. We hope it opens the door to conversations so that you can educate people about our hobby and the difficulties we are facing. Together, we can fight this flavor ban and save hookah!