TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has allowed water pipes to reappear in tea houses, whose owners complained a recent ban on health grounds was putting them out of business, press reports said on Tuesday.
“Tea houses with a business permit can offer water pipes to their costumers,” the interior ministry said in directive to police published in the Tehran Emrouz newspaper.
However it said that only plain tobacco would be allowed in water pipes and popular fruit flavours like strawberry and apple would remain banned due to “health risks”.
Iranian police had prohibited the smoking of water pipes in tea houses as they enforced a long-standing ban on any kinds of smoking in public places.
The authorities confiscated water pipes and reportedly closed down dozens of tea houses in the crackdown, which was met with protests from tea houses owners who saw their business in jeopardy by losing a main source of income.
Iran first outlawed water pipes, known in Iran as “ghalian” and in Arab countries as “shisha” or “narghileh”, in eateries four years ago on the grounds of hygiene, but the ban was frequently flouted amid sporadic crackdowns.
Many teahouses operate in working class and downtown areas offering cheap food along with water pipes. Traditional tea houses are also a tourist attraction and a hangout for young men and women in historic towns.
Iranian police are enforcing the country’s toughest moral crackdown in years which has seen thousands of women warned for flouting strict Islamic dress rules.