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Local Hookah Lounge Owner Grapples With California's New Tobacco Laws

Exhale Hookah Lounge / Facebook

Exhale Hookah Lounge / Facebook

A new California law has increased the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 years old. E-cigarettes are regulated under this law as well, which includes hookah, or shisha.

Hookah is a water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. Hookah lounges are a common hangout for younger crowds, especially those between the ages of 18 and 20, since they are not allowed into most clubs or bars.

Businesses that serve hookah have been popping up in different locations in recent years. There is about a dozen in Sacramento and surrounding areas.

Sohale Mahmoudzadeh is the owner of Exhale Hookah Lounge in Roseville, California.

He says he found out about the law through word of mouth. According to Mahmoudzadeh, he hasn't received a letter or notice even though the law already took effect.

“Until it became official...I thought it was a joke,” he says. “If this is a big deal as they’re making it, they put a lack of effort into sharing the information.”

According to California Department of Public Health, information packets have been created and will be sent out to tobacco retailers by the end of the month.

CDPH director and state health officer Dr. Karen Smith says, “Our focus is on reaching vape shops and more than 34,000 retailers with tobacco licenses to provide them the information and resources needed to comply with the new tobacco 21 law.”

But, instead of waiting, Mahmoudzadeh has a "game plan" on how to deal with the new law. He says about 30 to 35 percent of his customers are between the ages of 18 and 21. Under the new regulations, his hookah lounge can no longer serve that age group.

Mahmoudzadeh says he wasn’t sure what to make of it when he first heard about the law. But then, he applied to get a beer and wine license to add to his hookah lounge.

Before the law took effect, Mahmoudzadeh was looking for a bigger location to create two separate spaces, as required by area regulations, to be able to serve alcohol to those of legal age while still serving those under 21, but he no longer needs to do that.

"I have applied to get a beer and wine permit so I can cater to the 21 and older crowd," he says, "I’m gonna rebrand the store. It will still be a hookah lounge but we’ll add the beer and wine."

Mahmoudzadeh hopes the new addition will make up for the loss in business.


Joanne Serrieh

Producer / Ops Assistant

Joanne Serrieh started her journey at Cap Radio as an intern with The View From Here. She used her social media passion to help create Twitter and Facebook strategic plans that boosted the documentary program’s online presence.  Read Full Bio