Multiculturalism for me but not for thee, even if thee art the majority.

Vancouver’s hookah-parlour owners are celebrating after winning an exemption Thursday from a proposed new bylaw that will ban smoking on most sidewalks in commercial districts, in bus shelters and even in taxis passing through Vancouver.

In giving the bylaw unanimous approval-in-principle, Vancouver city council members bowed to arguments that hookah lounges provide an important cultural space for the city’s Muslims and granted them a temporary exemption…

Hamid Mohammadian, operator of the Persian Teahouse on Davie Street, thanked council for the exemption.

“We are very happy because this is our culture. I have one customer, 75 years old, who said ‘I will have no other place to go if you close,'” he said.

Mohammadian brought two hookah pipes to show council. They included a 600-year-old model with a ceramic mosaic on the outside, fruit-flavoured tobacco, and charcoal to the meeting to show councillors what was at stake.

I’ve been to a hookah lounge or two, and it’s true that they’re little Middle East cultural centers. They’re also fun to hang out at once in a while. But so what? Why should they get an exemption based on some multi-culti argument? If we’re not careful, we’ll end up setting up parallel legal structures for Muslims and non-Muslims.

Mark Steyn, who drew my attention to this story, adds:

The state, in other words, is prepared to treat Muslims as free-born adults who can weigh the “cultural value” (ie, the pleasures) of smoking against the health risks. But not the rest of us.

Yup. The story notes that cigar rooms can continue operating until the final regulations are drafted, but what happens after that? Will they get a culture exemption? The crackheads seem to have one.

One disgruntled speaker, Angela Giannoulis, suggested sarcastically that she hoped the new bylaw would mean she wouldn’t have to put up with crack and crystal-meth smokers outside her family’s cigar-distribution business in Strathcona, while it forces her employees to go to dangerous alleys to smoke cigarettes and threatens to shut the cigar rooms for her customers.

But health-protection director Domenic Losito said he didn’t think so, since the bylaw is aimed at cigarette smoke.

Update: Meanwhile, Tennessee becomes a tobacco police state.

Starting today, state Department of Revenue agents will begin stopping Tennessee motorists spotted buying large quantities of cigarettes in border states, then charging them with a crime and, in some cases, seizing their cars.

Critics say the new “cigarette surveillance program” amounts to the use of “police state” tactics and wrongfully interferes with interstate commerce. But state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr says his department is simply doing its job, enforcing a valid state law while protecting Tennessee retailers who properly pay state taxes.

If only the feds would demonstrate such vigilance against the coyotes. I’m not the first to note the irony.

Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he sees inconsistency in the enforcement program.

“This administration has been very willing to turn a blind eye to illegal aliens pouring into our state, yet, when a natural Tennessean brings a couple of cartons of smokes across the state line, they want to arrest them,” Campfield said.