The impending State Government ban on the sale of bongs will not include hookah pipes because of cultural reasons, after consultation with members of Melbourne's Arabic community.
The exemption has been criticised by anti-smoking groups, who argue that all cultural groups should be entitled to a safe, smoke-free environment.
A Bailleau Government spokesman confirmed that Hookah pipes - also known as shisha, narghile or goza - would still be available, although there will be restrictions on their display.
"As we understand it, they [hookah pipes] are used primarily for cultural reasons and the ban is more focused on illicit drug use," the spokeman said.
The new laws will make it an offence to have more than three hookah pipes on display in a retail outlet, with the intent of limiting their visibility and reducing the uptake of tobacco smoking. All bongs will be banned, including components and bong kits.
Health Minister Mary Woolridge said in Parliament last month that representatives from Middle Eastern and Arabic communities were consulted on the new legislation that will be introduced this week.
Fiona Sharkie, executive director of Quit, said hookah pipes should not be exempted for cultural reasons, with Victoria the only Australian state to permit their use inside cafes and bars. She said hookah pipes and bongs were essentially the same thing.
"All patrons and hospitality workers, regardless of their cultural background, should be entitled to a healthy, smoke-free environment," she said.
The loose definition of tobacco in the Tobacco Act had created a loophole, which was increasingly exploited by venues, according to Ms Sharkie.
Ms Sharkie called for a ban on the smoking of tobacco in all water pipes inside venues.
"There is a perception that because the tobacco is smoked through water or flavoured with fruit that it's not as harmful as other tobacco products. But the reality is that hookah or shisha pipes are just as harmful and people should not be deluded," Ms Sharkie said.