New Delhi: According to India’s Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product-including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and hookah (shisha) to anyone under 21 years of age. After this, hookah bars, which mushroomed rapidly in metros and Tier II cities across India, are now beginning to feel the heat.
One state government after another is banning them not only for giving teenagers access to hookah but using ingredients not permissible under the law. Hookah bars in cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh, Kolkatta etc were raided from time to time for serving tobacco to minors. Despite this, hookah bars remain the hangouts of choice for urban youths.
Gulf News carried out investigation in different metros of India. And found that hookah bars, despite the raids, don’t mind serving hookah to underage guests.
We first approach Sky Garden (name changed), a hookah bar situated in south Delhi. And offered its manager a fictitious deal to organise a hookah party for 40 underage guests in his bar. The manager immediately agreed to host party for our minor guests, and told us the rate for one hookah with tobacco to be served to our minor. “The rate of one hookah will be Rs500 (Dh25), including tobacco. And this will be the smaller hookah, a base one,” the manager said.
'All flavours available'
Our next destination was Noida. We offered a similar deal - organising a minor hookah party in club 25 (name changed) hookah bar. The manager agreed to this. And gave us the number of hookah to be used in the party for 40 underage guests. “Three hookahs are sufficient amongst three children. At this we require 12-15 hookahs for 40 minors,” he said. He further told us the flavour of tobaccos he will use for the minors. “You will get all flavour tobacco in my bar. Teen pan, apple, rasbhari, teen supari etc are few flavoured tobaccos we serve in our hookah bar”.
We then moved on to Kolkata and met the manager of New Street Club (name changed) hookah bar situated at Airport Road. After knowing about our minor hookah party in his bar, he said: “Don’t worry we will serve hookah to your minor with high dose of tobacco. But please don’t post pictures of these guys puffing hookah on social media. Otherwise, authorities will seal our hookah bars, like it happened with many hookah bars in Kolkata.”
While speaking to Gulf News, police in these cities: “We sealed various hookah bars in the past for serving tobacco sale to minors. We will continue to do so in future also as and when we’ll get tip-off”.