BEIRUT : LEBANESE bubble with anger over hookah tax.

Flipping the hot coals on his  green hookah in a crowded Beirut cafe, Abbas Nasreddine says Lebanon's new austerity budget has spoilt  his  daily treat of smoking a water pipe.

''It's how we deflate stress,'' says the 26-year old university student, a long drag of mint scented smoke rising overhead.

''But now our tool for coping with our worries has become a worry itself,'' he said fiddling with the  hookah's long hose.

Nasreddine is among many regular smokers who are displeased with a government decision to impose a new tax on water pipes as part of a larger austerity package.

They will soon have to pay an additional 1,000 Lebanese pounds [$0.66] for every water pipe they order in a cafe or a restaurant, at a time when job opportunities are scarce and the economy is in a decline.

''For politicians, 1,000 LBP maybe of no value,'' Nasreddine says. But for me, 1,000 LBP has a value. I get to the university for 1,000 LBP,'' he adds.

After decades of civil war, corruption and political crises made Lebanon one of the world's most indebted countries, the government adopted a new austerity budget last Monday to combat a ballooning budget deficit.

It reduced benefits and pensions in the public sector and introduced a series of  tax hikes, including on personal firearm licenses and permits for tinted windows.

For some, the new levy on water pipes has provoked particular ire.

Taxes should not be raised ''on something most people use to just relax,'' Nasreddine says.

''We smoke to calm our minds, because we are sick of the situation in this country.''

The World Health organization has warned that a full Hookah is equivalent to smoking 20 30 cigarettes at once, and has linked the practice to lung damage and cancer.

But in much of the Middle East, sharing a water pipe - also called shisha or nargileh - is often conceived as a social occasion during which smokers spend hours in cafes chatting and passing the hose. [Agencies]

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on social enjoyment and practices, continues.


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