Hookahs have been a popular part of L.A.’s nightlife for a decade. But passing the pipe to patrons at clubs and other venues comes with a host of permit, labor and safety issues.

Blow hopes to change that. The L.A. e-cigarette manufacturer used its liquid vaporization technology to create an e-hookah resembling a traditional water pipe but without any burning coals or nicotine – the kinds of things that would trigger the need for permits or regulation.

“We can’t say anything about it being healthier than tobacco. The FDA won’t let us,” said Fritz Graf, a co-founder of Blow with Anand Gupta. “But it’s definitely safer because you can’t knock over coals and burn someone. You don’t need any permits and increased insurance as well.”

The $800 hookah, sold mostly to nightclubs in Southern California, uses liquids containing just vegetable glycerin instead of nicotine. Different flavorings can be added to the glycerin to give it a distinct taste. The liquid is vaporized and patrons can inhale it like smoke.

“You don’t get any buzz or anything,” Graf said.

Blow also sells nicotine-infused liquids on its website.

Graf claims that the absence of nicotine will help nightclubs sidestep any bans on e-cig products in public. The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote soon on a proposal that would regulate nicotine-infused vapor inhalers the same as tobacco, which would effectively prohibit their use in most public places. Some other municipalities have moved to regulate e-cigarettes as well.

“The ban only focuses on nicotine,” Graf said. “We’ve been speaking to our attorneys. At the end of the day, the legislation doesn’t affect us. Some clubs might be nervous, but I haven’t really had anyone bring it up.”

The e-hookah, which runs on two rechargeable batteries, allows for two people to inhale vapors at once. (Host venues provide fresh mouthpieces for each user.)

The e-hookah took a year to develop and is designed to go through the wear and tear of being used in crowded venues. Blow is also marketing a $900 light stand that changes colors to the rhythm of music being played around it for mounting the e-hookah.

“It’s more for high-end-type clubs,” Graf said. “People like hookahs because it is trendy and the products will be able to bring in more people that usually wouldn’t go.”

– Justin Yang

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