A pizza restaurant in La Mesa is hoping to make more dough by offering hookahs for delivery along with the pizza, sandwiches, and spaghetti on their menu.
GiGi Pizza, formerly Palermo Pizza, started renting out hookahs a few weeks ago for $14.99 for a 24-hour period.
“It’s actually from the time you rent to the end of the next day,” GiGi Pizza manager San Aqrawi clarified. “We charge $20 on the credit card and bring the hookah, along with charcoal, two heads [the ceramic piece that holds the smoking material], and two types of tobacco.”
GiGi Pizza’s five-mile delivery radius covers La Mesa, Lemon Grove, parts of El Cajon, and Spring Valley, and just touches the SDSU area. There are 17 hookah bars in that region, but Aqrawi believes delivering the hookahs isn’t the only way he can smoke out the competition.
“It’s actually cheaper than what you’d pay at a hookah lounge, because we give you two heads where they would give you only one,” he said.
Aqrawi recently began hawking hookahs but said he’s rented out the seven he has in stock a few dozen times already.
Considering that La Mesa has become somewhat of a hookah-lounge haven, it’s possible other businesses might offer hookah delivery. But Aqrawi says it’s not a business model for everyone.
“It’s hard to do it,” he said. “You have to have knowledge about sanitation.”
As might be expected, GiGi Pizza’s decision to deliver hookahs with pizzas doesn’t make the American Lung Association happy.
Debra Kelley, the regional director of programs and advocacy for the American Lung Association in California, was shocked when she heard about GiGi Pizza's hookah-delivery service.
“This is great,” she said sarcastically. “You can order pizza with a side order of lung cancer.”
Kelley said hookahs present a huge problem for public health, especially when delivered.
“This is luring people, enticing people who wouldn’t smoke ordinarily,” she said. “They’re told there is no health risk, but there is a huge level of tar and nicotine. People have no idea of the health risks.”
Kelley emailed data that stated a one-hour hookah session is equal to smoking 100 cigarettes.
Kelley said that in order to sell tobacco in the state of California, GiGi Pizza is required to get a tobacco retailer’s license and put it on display.
Aqrawi said he has one, but I did not see it during my brief visit.
He also said his staff, especially the delivery drivers, has been educated on the proper legal procedures, including checking I.D.s to ensure customers are of legal age.
Still, he concedes, he can only go so far.
“I’ve delivered some to parents, but I don’t know if they are going to give them to the kids,” he said.