Hookahs side-step law

    The smoke that was eradicated from many public establishments in Spain is being reintroduced through hookahs, according to a story in El Pais.
    People are allowed to smoke hookahs inside as long as they do not smoke tobacco but nicotine-free alternatives, such as Shiazo.
    The legal loophole is being exploited by bars and cafés, some of which surreptitiously also offer tobacco to smoke.
    As soon as tobacco was involved, however, it was against the law, said a spokesman for the Civil Guard, which carried out two raids in 2017, in Valencia and Malaga, to combat the practice.
    “It is happening all over Spain,” says Carlos Plaja, who took part in the Malaga operation, which saw 124 complaints filed and 91 venues inspected. “They hide the packets [of tobacco] in stools and false ceilings. And when they are inspected, they only show products that are nicotine free and permissible.”
    Penalties relating to the anti-tobacco laws are in the hands of the regional authorities. However, most are hazy when it comes to data on hookah use and infringement. The only region with any relevant data is Catalonia, where seven establishments have been fined so far this year.
    Meanwhile, Civil Guard sources in Valencia recognize that there are too many establishments involved to police them properly.
    The Tobacco Department of the Spanish Family and Community Medicine Society says there is an increasing number of people smoking both cigarettes and pipes in Spain, though data on the use of pipes is scarce. EDADES, the most recent survey on drug consumption carried out by the Health Ministry, failed to include it, recording only that cigarette smoking among young people had risen by 5 percent.
    While hookahs can be smoked in indoor public places, given that no tobacco is involved, electronic cigarettes cannot because the law considers them to comprise a tobacco product.
    Meanwhile, Seville is hosting an international hookah fair in June. The organizers have chosen Seville because they claim that the Spanish market is one of the biggest in the world. Among the main participants will be companies from the US and Brazil that specialize in tobacco for water pipes.