With the onset of the smoking ban enacted and enforced in Chicago bars and restaurants, the popularity of the Hookah café has emerged. These establishments have escaped the stingy anti-smoking ordinance by masquerading as licensed “retail tobacco” establishments. The label carries with it the stipulation that the establishment must derive at least 65% of their revenue from tobacco smoking. Most of these establishments do not carry liquor licenses, although on the contrary, many of them do serve food and drinks.

Prices range from $4-$12 to engage in the activity. Once payment is received, visitors are lent a tall glass and metal water pipe. The base is filled with water, and the bowl that rests atop the apparatus is filled with flavored tobacco. A coal or two is placed on top of the tobacco to create a slow burn. Smoke then fills the pipe and can be inhaled through any number of hoses protruding from the base.

Users believe the practice to be safer than smoking cigarettes because the water at the base acts as a natural filter, cooling the smoke before it reaches the user’s lungs. This is a common misconception, contends Joel Africk, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago. In any event, patrons of the café admit enjoying the mellow vibe and socialization these cafes inevitably promote.

Be Sociable, Share!