Hookah Request Doused

WHEELING – It appears a Wheeling man’s plans to open a hookah bar in the city went up in smoke Tuesday.

During a regular Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health meeting, resident Trey Santorine requested an exemption from the board’s Clean Indoor Air regulation for a hookah bar.

A hookah, he said, is a water pipe that people use to inhale a vaporized mixture of flavored tobacco and vegetable glycerine. The establishment would offer the products and devices in which to smoke them. He estimated that compared to cigarettes, hookah tobacco contains fewer chemicals – 200 different chemicals instead of the 5,000 in regular cigarettes.

Santorine believes there is a local demand for such a service, as his friends often travel to the Pittsburgh area to frequent hookah bars.

“I don’t think it’s a significant health concern,” Santorine said.

Board Chairman Dr. John Holloway disagreed, noting the product used still contains tobacco.

“There’s still tobacco product floating around – that’s the problem. We still have to stick to our guns,” Holloway said.

Board member Wilkes Kinney also did not like the idea.

“I think it’s a slippery slope – it has a mix of tobacco in it,” Kinney said.

The county-wide smoking ban prohibits smoking inside public buildings and workplaces, bars and restaurants. Current exemptions include bars’ video gambling rooms and the video/table gambling area at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack. The track already prohibits smoking inside its poker room.

Before the meeting, Santorine said he believes an ideal area for the hookah bar would be near the Ye Olde Alpha restaurant and bar in Edgwood. Holloway said Santorine was welcome to present more scientific information during the board’s next meeting, set for noon May 14 in City Council Chambers, located on the first floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.