Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Hookah, cigar bars appear to be operating illegally

The new hookah bars popping up around town — and a new cigar bar in Friendship Heights — have raised eyebrows among us here at Smokefree DC.

Hookah and cigar bars are allowed, of course, but only if a certain percentage of their sales are tobacco, and only after they get cleared by the city’s Department of Health to allow smoking. (Read the law and regulations here.)

We looked on the DOH website, but none of the new establishments were listed as having exemptions. We called and confirmed that the list on the site is indeed updated, which makes us conclude that these places are operating illegally. One of them, Sahra Lounge, has a picture on the website showing people smoking hookah inside.

Just to be sure that we weren’t going to be unfairly accusing a business of breaking the law, we conducted site visits and confirmed that yes, people were smoking inside these establishments.

Today, we sent a letter to the Department of Health and cc’d the mayor, City Council and city administrator. We’ll post an update when we hear back.


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