The owner of a lounge that offers water pipe smokinghas eliminated tobacco products in hopes of keepingup withCalgary's new smoking ban, but officials warn heis still breaking the rules.

"We've turned over to a herbal product and hopefully that will be enough for the city to keep us in business here," said Majed Abdo, owner of Café Mediterranean.

The Middle Eastern practice of smoking flavoured tobacco through a water pipe called a hookah goes back hundreds of years, he said. But as ofNew Year's Day,it is illegal to light up in all public places, including restaurants and bars, in Calgary.

Alvin Murray, spokesman for the city's bylaw department, said the any kind of smoking is prohibited.

"The current status is they have to be in compliance with the bylaw. So right now, if they're allowing smoking on their public premises, they are in violation."

Abdo has started a petition and will bring his fight for an exemption to city aldermen. The city has already given one-year exemptions to businesses that have separate ventilated smoking rooms, as well as to casinos and bingo halls.

"This is all culture. We need the culture in the city. They shouldn't be able to take that away from us," said Abdo.

Fines for violating the smoking bylawrun between $100 and $300, or an officer can issue a mandatory court appearance and a judge canimpose a fine as highas $2,500.