The Guardian: For centuries its rich aromas and ornate design have formed an integral part of Persian culture. But now the hubble-bubble, or water pipe, is set to disappear from Iran’s traditional restaurants and tea-houses as part of a stringent anti-smoking drive by the government. The Guardian
Robert Tait in Tehran
For centuries its rich aromas and ornate design have formed an integral part of Persian culture. But now the hubble-bubble, or water pipe, is set to disappear from Iran’s traditional restaurants and tea-houses as part of a stringent anti-smoking drive by the government.
Health watchdogs are to collect the smoking devices from eating and drinking places under a sweeping purge of tobacco products signed into law by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The move means an end here to a pastime that is popular across the Middle East but which for long has been viewed as a decadent indulgence by the Islamic authorities in Iran.
The government insists its motive is health related and has cited expert opinion stating that the hubble-bubble is potentially more dangerous than cigarettes. Despite its benign image studies have suggested that the amount of cancer-causing agents inhaled from smoking a hubble-bubble is equivalent to that from a cigarette. The overall effect can then be compounded by the longer time it takes to smoke the hubble-bubble.
Known locally as qalyoun, the activity of inhaling fruit or mint flavoured tobacco, heated by charcoals, through rubber or wooden tubes, is popular in provincial towns and cities, especially in the more traditionalist south. Families and friends out on picnics commonly smoke in public parks. That will be made illegal.
The habit is believed to have caught on in Iran during the 17th or 18th century, having originated in India.
There have been previous attempts at crackdowns. Two years ago some establishments forbade women from smoking on the grounds it encouraged public flirting and mingling between the sexes.
However the latest ban is likely have greater force after being approved by the powerful guardian’s council, a body of clerics and judges charged with assessing the religious and moral suitability of legislation. The government is setting up enforcement measures in a broad package that also bans smoking in all public buildings and workplaces and on public transport, and outlaws selling cigarettes to under-18s. People found smoking at work face being docked a month’s salary.
All advertising and publicity promoting tobacco is to be outlawed. Police will be empowered to fine offenders up to £30 or issue a court summons.
The government says that 50,000 Iranians die each year from tobacco related illnesses.