Earlier this week Parliament banned the import and sale of shisha tobacco, though they gave licensed retailers until the end of July 2016 before the ban kicks in for them “as a transitional measure”. How nice of them. They’re like the kid who burns ants with a magnifying glass just to see how long they take to die, and expects the ants to be grateful for the opportunity to live a little longer.
We share your pain, soon-to-be former shisha retailers! Those shisha sets can cost up to $130 each, and you definitely shouldn’t feel like you need to dump them all simply because of the ban. So we’ve come up with 5 ways you can make the most of your existing apparatus!
1. Sell Aquarium Ornaments
Those shisha bowls often come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours! Spruce up an aquarium by placing several differently designed bowls in a tank along with equally pretty ornamental fish. Feel free to experiment with different configurations too! Glue a few together to form an aquarium cave and be amazed as your tetras and bettas go crazy playing hide and seek.
Some bowls also look just as good, or better, when overturned. Just like your profits would look better if the ban were overturned.
2. Sell Hydration Packs
Those giant shisha hoses? Perfect for hydration packs, popularised by Camelbak and Hydrapak. With Singapore’s competitive cycling and triathlon culture, you can be sure that there’s a market for a portable hydration system.
Even better, strike up a deal with MINDEF to provide them with hydration packs for military exercises! The 62 – 72 inch (1.58 – 1.82 m) length of the hose means that you don’t have to wear the reservoir or “bladder” on your back like traditional Camelbaks, you can even wear them on your thighs or even on your feet, they’re that long!
Alternatively you can be a one-stop supply for petrol thieves, but if you were planning to do something illegal anyway, you would have started an underground shisha business.
3. Sell Candlesticks and Lamps
One Haji Lane café owner TODAY spoke to said he was going to use his some 800 to 900 shisha apparatus to complement his Middle Eastern-inspired deco. That’s foresight right there. Your shisha bases, especially the more elaborately designed ones, probably have been mistaken for candlesticks or lamp stands by shisha newbies, so why not turn them into exactly that?
They’re practically candlesticks – since they’re already pretty useless without a candle, but with a bulb, a lampshade and some wires, you can fully utilise the hollow structure of the shisha base to turn it into a lamp.
If only it were that easy to shine a light in the hollow brains of the person who thought a blanket ban on shisha would be the solution.
4. Sell Furniture
Some shisha bases are just so utilitarian looking, you might as well turn them into the most utilitarian items possible – furniture. Four equally tall shisha bases make a nice stool or chair. Alternatively, if you have four of those 1-metre tall, jumbo sized shisha bases, they would make perfect table legs. Just screw on a sturdy wood board to them and you’re all set.
(Disclaimer: Of course, unless your customers weigh less than 30 grams, the shisha base probably isn’t designed to withstand such weights. Get your customers to apply for personal accident insurance before they sit on any of your shisha base furniture.)
5. BBQ Catering
BBQ catering is a booming industry in Singapore. But you have something most BBQ wholesalers don’t – stocks of high-quality, high-density charcoal. These are designed to burn longer with persistent heat, something that works just as well for BBQ as it does for shisha. Plus, shisha charcoal is easier to clean because it creates less ash.
But, what about the smaller size of the coals, you complain. No worries! Just set up a mini-grill business. Think of it as gourmet dining, but for BBQs. You know how those gourmet restaurants serve the tiniest piece of meat on the biggest plate they have in their kitchen? You can do the same! Sell overpriced meats and get customers to cook it for themselves on a tiny Liberty BBQ Ball Grill.
After all, you’re already getting your profit margins burnt by this ban, the least you can do is burn something else and feel better about it.
If I could be serious for a minute…
Hopefully by now you’ve probably guessed that we’re kidding about these ideas (or are we?), and we definitely don’t want anyone LITERALLY blowing smoke up your ass (especially if you’re crazy enough to try that shisha furniture idea). But these 5 ideas aren’t any more ridiculous than the blanket ban on shisha retail or the similar ban on e-cigarettes back in 2010, and yet there’s still no such ban on cigarettes!
But you and I and the taxi drivers congregating at your void deck kopi tiam all know the unspoken truth – it’s more cost-effective to raise tariffs on cigarettes than to regulate consumption. In the Budget earlier this year, tobacco excise duties were increased by 10%, with additional revenue projected at $70 million dollars. That’s a TOTAL of almost $800 million dollars just by taxing cigarettes alone! You’ve got to hand it to the government, they really know how to maximise our money. Too bad they don’t trust us to spend it wisely.
Do you have any other suggestions for former shisha retailers affected by the ban? Let us know in the comments below!
Choo Yut Shing