I am a Yid. I like to rock. Veitur!

- [ Sunday, June 27, 2004 ] -
Hookah and the Nakhla scam
Smoking is bad. Sometimes good people do bad things. I like to smoke.

I quit smoking cigarettes over a year ago and I don't plan on starting again. Some people like cigarettes so much that they have a rough time with the concept of never enjoying a cigarette again. I have a system that works very well for me. I schedule a single cigarette every few months. I can enjoy the planned cigarette and I don't even think about supplementing that single one with another. Like I said, it works for me.

A controversial activity in which I still partake is smoking hookah (AKA nargilah, hubbly-bubbly, shishah). I have about one per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's all the rage in the middle-east, including Israel.

Some may think it's just as bad and may say that I might as well smoke cigarettes. I don't think it's a healthy activity, and in the future I may curb these activities as well. What I do know is that since I quit cigarettes and increased my hookah consumption, I feel better. I don't cough randomly during the day. I don't need to take cigarette breaks during the day. I don't feel edgy towards the end of Shabbos. Hookah doesn't provide the same fix as a cigarette. You can feel the tobacco when you smoke it, but it is many times less powerful and is filtered through water.

A little something for the kiddies that are reading this and are perhaps considering smoking hookah as a harmless activity: Smoking anything is bad for you. The tobacco for hookahs is 100% unregulated by any government body. I don't know what good filtering the smoke through water does. I haven't seen any scientific surveys on this method of smoking. Smoke at your own risk. You lose nothing by not smoking anything at all.

The Nakhla Scam:
Nakhla Tobacco Company is the largest and most popular hookah tobacco company. The tobacco that is popularly used for hookahs is a blend of tobacco, molasses and fruit. Very smooth, tasty and altogether enjoyable.

The price of hookah parts and hookah tobacco in the U.S. is approximately three times the cost in the middle-east. The only places in the U.S. to purchase this tobacco is online or at sketchy bodegas and head-shops. A legitimate tobacco store will not sell it. Especially since is 100% unregulated by any government body. Being that it is unregulated, no one pays any taxes on it, tobacco tax or otherwise.

Nakhla must have been getting cocky, and decided that a quick way to make more money would be to short their customers. Selling 250 gram packages that in actuality contain somewhere between 133 and 145 grams. Let me rephrase that, they are selling their customers short by almost 50%! That is unacceptable behavior for any kind of drug-dealer and a shitty way to do business.

After months of suspecting as such, and giving the benefit of the doubt and being lazy, I decided to not get ripped off anymore. I stopped buying online, because I can't even imagine the pain in the butt it would be to get a fair deal. I walked into one shady headshop near my house and picked out several boxes. I casually mentioned that I thought they were light and asked if I could try out one of their drug-scales (it is, after all, a shady head-shop). The flunky behind the counter didn't seem to care either way and charged me only for the tobacco he sold me, not for what was on the label. I recommended they tell their distributor. Fat chance. I came back a month later and they were still selling for the same price.

So now whenever I buy tobacco there, I have to bring my calculator. Everyone else that wants it will have to pay regular price for product they are not getting. I'm posting this with the hope that other Nakhla customers can negotiate fair price for what they are getting.

If I wanted, I can bring down the whole U.S. operation for all sorts of fraud. Internet sales can be shut down with mail fraud. Every box should have to be subject to tobacco taxes and various customs regulations. The upside would be more reliable product. The downside would be the more likely, unavailability of their product.

I suppose I'll turn Nakhla in when I learn to make my own molasses-fruit-tobacco. I hope the day is soon.

In the meantime, I want to ask every Nakhla customer to be a pain in the butt to the dealer and insist he tells his supplier. Writing complaint letters isn't a bad idea either.