When the state government introduced a ban on hookah parlours in the city last year, it took Sabastin Rebello, 22, less than a month to think of an alternative means to smoke the glass bubbly.
Rebello purchased a hookah pot and now smokes it at will at home. “It also turned out to be cheaper,” he said. Hookah pots starting from Rs. 350 along with hookah flavours (Rs. 50 per pack) and coal (Rs. 50 for a packet) are available at several stores.
Now the Maharashtra government has proposed to raise the fine for running an illegal hookah parlour from Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 25,000, and plans to impose a Rs. 10,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment for those found smoking a hookah in public.
While the ban is effective in the city, some youngsters drive out of the city to smoke hookahs. “In places such as Lonavla or Bhiwandi where it is easily available,” said Rohit Shettigar, 24.
“The ban is a breach of one’s freedom. Everybody’s choice should be respected,” said Tristan Fernandes, 20. “I know that I will continue to smoke hookah at my friend’s place.”
“The ban would just increase illegal activities. The hookah pots and flavours are more easily available after last year’s ban and it just attracts more youngsters to it,” said Saideep Menon, 20.
Manpreet Obhan, 25, a co-owner of a pub in Koparkhairane, said that his pub used to serve tobacco-free hookah, which is not dangerous, after checking the customers’ identity and age proofs. “If the government is so concerned, it should do something about cigarettes that are equally harmful and available at every corner,” said Obhan.