Hookah Bars: Does the Smoking Ban Apply?

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- A new Lincoln hookah bar attorney said the statewide smoking ban does not apply to his client’s business. Rotana Club Hookah Bar opened last Friday near Downtown Lincoln. This is in spite of a recent Supreme Court ruling, which said it’s unconstitutional to smoke cigars indoors or in public places.

Bassel El-Kasaby, an attorney representing the Hookah bar said there are several factors that sets them aside from typical cigar bars.

“[People] have to be a member to get it,” said El-Kasaby. “It’s run by the members.”

El-Kasaby said there are no employees since members run the hookah bar themselves, making the business exempt from the state smoking ban.

“Anybody who comes in is a member and signs their name is a member of the private club,” said City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick. “Then I think that’s the distinction without a difference that they’re serving the public.”

El-Kasaby said the law does not specify “hookah” on the list. In the meantime, the city attorney will look further into the law.

Kirkpatrick said it’s a matter of time before the Supreme Court ruling, which included cigars in the state public smoking ban, will take effect.

10/11 News spoke with an Omaha hookah business owner who said they’re expanding to Lincoln, and their way around the ruling is by using tobacco-free or smoke-free hookah.

The CDC reports that although many people think tobacco based hookah is less harmful; it has the same health risks as cigarette smoking.