Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco like herb and fruit blends.
Hookah bars and restaurants like Cafe 360 have exploded in popularity in Louisville in the past few years, from Frankfort Avenue to Bardstown Road and areas around the University of Louisville campus.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There may be a smoking ban in the city of Louisville, but smoking hasn't stopped. Popular hookah bars and restaurants are all the rage. Now, Louisville health officials may be seeking changes to the availability of hookah products.
Pass the pipe - what's the harm? "Everybody loves it," said Café 360 manager Debbie Armstrong of hookahs. "The college kids they love it."
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco like herb and fruit blends. "We have blueberry, raspberry, sex on the beach and we have lemon," Armstrong said, describing a list of customer favorites.
A $12 hookah lasts anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. It's considered by many as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. Hookah bars and restaurants like Cafe 360 have exploded in popularity in Louisville in the past few years, from Frankfort Avenue to Bardstown Road and areas around the University of Louisville campus.
"It tastes good and it's easy to do," said hookah customer Al Jones.
The issue now? Metro Public Health and Wellness leaders are looking seriously at warnings coming from the Centers For Disease Control that hookah smoke carries many of the same harmful toxins as cigarette smoke and is associated with lung cancer and respiratory illness.
"I completely disagree with that," Jones said, "I don't think it's a health risk at all."
Customer Ashley Stillwell told WAVE 3 News, "I myself have smoked cigarettes before so comparing the two is different because the intensity of the smoke coming from a hookah is nowhere near smoking a cigarette," she said.
Hookah products are legal in Kentucky but Metro Public Health and Wellness Spokesman Dave Langdon said cutting those products off to minors is one of several recommendations health officials will make in a report coming out in a few weeks.
Armstrong said she worked in a cigarette smoke environment in the past and there's no comparison. At Café 360, you must be 18 to have a hookah at your table. Still, she doesn't buy that it's dangerous saying hookah is all about flavor and vapor not smoke.
"I have people that come in here with asthma and they'll smoke three hookahs a night," she added, "I think it's an outlet for the (college) kids because we have kids that come in and study and they say it helps them focus."
Cutting off hookah products to minors is just a recommendation for now, we hope to learn more about it in the next few weeks.