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Topic: Public Health – Seattle & King County; hookah lounges; health dangers

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October 3, 2013 at 10:36 AM

County fines hookah lounges, orders them to curtail smoking

Citing the need to protect public health, King County officials have sent notices to six hookah lounges in Seattle ordering them to stop allowing patrons to smoke from water pipes on their premises.

The move, covering hookah lounges scattered throughout the city, came after multiple inspections found violations of the state’s indoor-smoking ban passed by voters in 2005.

“Our investigation shows that these hookah bars are violating the law, and endangering the health of their workers and patrons,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health — Seattle and King County, said in a written statement Thursday.

“Secondhand smoke is proven killer, and state law works to protect everyone from this health threat,” Fleming said.

Notices were sent to the lounges Tuesday, which require immediate compliance as well as the payment of $100 fines for each violation. More violations could result in additional steps, including court action, the health department said.

Hookah bars, rooted in ancient Indian and Middle Eastern culture, have maintained they are exempt from the smoking ban because they operate as private clubs that collect membership fees.

But county health officials found the six lounges were open to the public, operating similarly to nightclubs that charge a cover fee.

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