The 2012 Orange County Smoke-Free Public Places Rule effectively prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants, as well as outdoors in any place owned or maintained by the towns or county. The rule came at the heels of a statewide smoking ban in public places passed in 2010.
Certain places, such as cigar bars, tobacco shops and private clubs, were exempted in the county ban as long as the businesses met specific requirements set by the law.
But hookah bars are not considered tobacco shops.
“We don’t have a specific ban against hookah, but the Orange County ban is as comprehensive as it could be,” said Coby Jansen Austin, tobacco prevention and control officer for the Orange County Health Department. “If there is any place inside where the public is invited or allowed, then the establishment is not allowed to allow smoking.”
Smoking hookah involves heating tobacco mixed with various flavorings. The smoke is passed through water and inhaled through a pipe and a mouthpiece. Hookah bars, which are gaining popularity in many parts of the world, allow customers to puff away either in a room or outdoors. Many restaurants also offer hookah as part of its services.
There are three shops on Franklin Street that sell hookah sets — Hazmat, Expressions and Smoke Rings Smoke Shop. But all three locations do not have smoking rooms or hookah bars. Hookah Bliss, the last known business in the area to offer hookah bars, closed down when the statewide ban was implemented.