Public Health

'Just Because We Didn't Have a Lobbyist, Why Should We Have to Suffer?'

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Hookah café owners in the Detroit area complain that Michigan's new smoking ban will put them out of business. Although the law forbids smoking in any establishment that serves food or drinks, it makes exceptions for cigar bars and casinos. Critics perceive class and ethnic bias in this distinction:

"It's a double standard," Akram Allos, owner of Sinbad Café in Dearborn, said while puffing on a mint-flavored hookah. "Just because we didn't have a lobbyist, why should we have to suffer?"…

"The law caters to wealthy special interests," said Mike Berry, owner of 360 Degrees Lounge and Grill in Dearborn, which offers hookah smoking. Berry and other hookah café owners say that lobbyists and politicians in Lansing can relate to cigar smoking and that the Detroit casinos wield great power. In contrast, the hookah café owners and Arab Americans lacked a lobbyist to press the issue, Berry said.

"It's discrimination," said Akram Allos, owner of Sinbad Café in Dearborn.

In Washington, D.C., by contrast, hookah bars were exempted from the city's smoking ban along with cigar bars. Perhaps hookah barkeepers in D.C. know more about lobbying.