Police have launched a major crackdown on hubbly-bubbly users amid fears the popular leisure activity is being abused.

It seems increasing numbers of smokers are substituting tobacco for banned substances, a development the authorities fear could lead to the spread of disease.

The conservative Jam-e Jam newspaper informed readers on Tuesday that police in Ahvaz have so far confiscated 300 hookahs and plan to make more seizures.

Health concern

"Certain people were using water pipes to consume drugs. These people could have AIDS or hepatitis, and smoking a water pipe could be a means of transmission of illnesses," a local council official was quoted as saying.

But the police will have their work cut out for them.

Water-pipes are commonplace in Iranian teahouses and homes – as in much the rest of the Middle East, where they are called narghiles or shishas.
  
They are normally used for smoking sweet and fruit-flavoured tobacco, with some people even flavouring the water through which the smoke is drawn.