SACRAMENTO, Calif.

A California bill to ban flavored tobacco products by prohibiting California retailers from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product was inactivated on request of the author, Senator Hill, on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

The bill was originally created to address a growing epidemic of underage usage of e- cigarette products. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey data show a surge in youth e- cigarette use with more than 3.6 million teens currently vaping. From 2017 to 2018, current e-cigarette use increased 78 % among high school students and 48% among middle school students.

However, the bill would have eliminated much more than e-cigarettes. It would have eliminated water pipe tobacco otherwise known as Hookah, which is a part of a cultural heritage that has been around for over 500 years. A Hookah is an instrument for smoking flavored tobacco. During the session, the smoke is passed through a water basin – often glass-based – to be filtered before inhalation. Hookah is also known as narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble, shisha and goza depending on local custom and tradition.

There are key differences between Hookah and e-cigarettes which make it less desirable to underage smokers. A Hookah waterpipe is approximately 1 – 3 feet tall and very difficult to conceal in your pocket like an e-cigarette. In addition, a Hookah takes approximately fifteen minutes to assemble, which is another barrier to entry for minors because they cannot easily set up a Hookah waterpipe in school or at home without being noticed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noted that “waterpipe tobacco does not appear to have the same ease of use particularly on school grounds as [e-cigarette] products and cigars, due to the cumbersome nature of the related equipment.” FDA noted that these products “do not appear to have wide-spread, significant youth use at this time.” Revised Compliance Policy Draft Guidance, at 19.

A cultural distinction between Hookah and e-cigarettes has always served as a guiding business principle to Fumari, a premier leader in the flavored Hookah tobacco industry. “In the early history of Hookah, it was a status symbol in the Middle East. It was smoked after royal dinners and at diplomatic meetings. Today, Hookahs are traditionally used for enjoyment after dinner with guests as a social activity or cultural ritual. Over the years Fumari has been approached several times to carry vape products and we have abstained from selling vape because it is not aligned with our company culture and heritage” Maher Saba, President of Fumari.

The flavor ban proposed in Senate Bill 38 would have struck at the heart of Fumari’s cultural and business foundation. Fumari collaborated with the Hookah Chamber of Commerce and their lobbyist Afrack Vargas, local businesses and other Hookah industry leaders to carve out a Hookah exemption to Senate Bill 38. Together they worked with several Senators who are understanding of cultures and traditions to preserve in Hookah’s heritage.

Fumari and the Hookah Chamber of Commerce agree that minors should not be smoking tobacco products and support responsible legislation. They stood against SB 38 because they believed an all-inclusive flavor ban on tobacco products was not the right solution. “We would proudly stand behind legislation that creates market restrictions, truthful education campaigns, stronger enforcement, increased penalties on retailers, new technology and raising the federal smoking age from 18 to 21 years old as the best way to protect youth from any tobacco product use whether it is flavored or not.” Rima Khoury, Corporate Counsel for Fumari.

ABOUT FUMARI, INC.
Fumari opened in 1997 and was the first Hookah lounge in San Diego, CA. The owners wanted to share their memories of Hookah from the Middle East with the people living here in the U.S.A. Fumari grew from a single Hookah lounge in downtown San Diego to a global leader in Hookah tobacco manufacturing. Their mission since day one was to keep the traditional alive. Fumari’s business was founded on creating the best quality Hookah tobacco flavors.

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Sam Hanhan at 619-331-3535 or email marketing(at)fumari(dot)com.

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