It's all a question of smoke.
An addition to the 2010 smoking ban cleared its first hurdle in the State Senate Thursday.
"Smoking is one that when you choose that as your fight, it might be a long road no matter how you slice it," said Mark Vargo, Pennington State's Attorney.
The battle to regulate hookah smoke has finally reached the state capitol, but that's no surprise to an Attorney representing the Ifrits Hookah Lounge in Rapid City.
In a written statement Attorney Steve Wesolick told KOTA territory news:
"The fact that an effort is being made to amend the definition of smoking certainly
validates my clients' position all along, that the current smoking ban was vague and unenforceable."
Sponsored by nine Black Hills lawmakers, Senate Bill 114 would classify hookah smoke as the same as cigarette smoke.
"If the bill comes into law, it's clear you either have to be a smoking establishment or a drinking establishment," said Vargo.
Opponents say the tobacco in a hookah pipe is heated, not burned, and shouldn't be considered 'smoking'.
"Cigarette smoke is full of carbon monoxide, carcinogens and heavy metals. [Hookah smoke] doesn't have any fewer of those," said Dr. Robert Preston of Rapid Care Medical.
According to testimony heard in Pierre Thursday, medical experts say it's the duration and sanitation of the hookah process that is dangerous.
"The water in hookah is supposed to filter toxins , it doesn't do it. It increases the amount you're getting. It's got a problem
with hygiene, improper cleaning of the apparatus to smoke it can occur. You're
basically putting your mouth on other people's saliva," said Dr. Preston.
But Wesolick asserts his clients' establishment is a nice venue for respectable clientele.
"At the Mayor's direction, this whole
matter has been blown way out of proportion to achieve his chief aim, to shut
down my clients' business, because of his personal views on a topic about which
there has been no public outcry. Certainly, public officials have more
important business to tend to than this," said Wesolick.
"People go there because it's a novelty, it's still new and they socialization with people," said Dr. Preston.
Wesolick says he hopes additional changes to the bill can be made to allow alcohol into Ifrits Hookah Lounge.
Senate Bill 114 passed through the senate judiciary committee unanimously Thursday morning.