Businesses that offer customers shisha water pipes to smoke tobacco are waging an 11th-hour bid for an exemption to a smoking ban that comes into force in England on Sunday.
Without the shisha, narguila or hookah, as the water pipes are variously called, dozens of restaurants will lose their main appeal to tourists, while shisha joints will see their sole activity disappear.
"It's a disaster, we don't know what to do because we are blocked with an 11-years lease signed in 2003," said Youssef Benfadel, the owner of the Mamounia lounge and two restaurants in central London's Queensway.
"Moreover, the council refuse the Mamounia lounge to be transformed into a restaurant," said Benfadel, who is of Moroccan origin.
He said the disappearance of the shisha businesses -- where no alcohol is served in general -- will have a broader economic impact.
"Arabs and Asian people generate a lot of business for tourism, shopping and gambling. Lots of Europeans also come for the shisha," he said, adding they will now head to other countries.
To save a tradition that is all the rage among young people who love the apple or other fruit and honey flavours mixed with the tobacco, the merchants association of Edgware Road in London -- home to many shisha businesses -- has launched a "save the shisha campaign" which has attracted 500 members.
A petition on the prime minister's website had recorded 9,439 signatures by Thursday. A paper petition circulating in London has received nearly 20,000 signatures.
"The shisha is part of our culture, its banning will destroy a whole community," said Ibrahim el-Nour, who heads the Edgeware Road association and coordinates the campaign to save his favourite pastime.
"Mental houses and prisons will have some exemptions, why not shisha bars? Even in New York where the regulation is very strict, they have found a solution for the sPage: 1 2 3 Related medicine news :1
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