"In Istanbul, people smoke as if they’re living in a Godard film."

Still, the addicted find deep cultural significance in their drug of choice. New Yorkers worried that a smoking ban would impede American binge drinking, and Parisians fretted that it would vanquish French café society. Istanbullus fear the ban will destroy vital mainstays of the Turkish community—specifically, the nargile (water-pipe) cafés and the teahouses...

tea house and hookahs, Istanbul

Hundreds of teahouses, suffering from rising utility costs and the myriad effects of the global financial meltdown, have already closed in the past few months. Family-first and feminist types aren’t fond of these men-only sanctuaries, where the retired and unemployed while away their days playing backgammon, talking politics, and smoking cigarettes. But in this enormous, bewildering city, the approximately 15,000 teahouses serve as, among other things, “a university without professors,” according to Ahmet Turan Doğan, the chairman of Istanbul’s Chamber of Public Teahouses and Non-Alcoholic Halls. Surrounded by four portraits of Atatürk and two nargiles, Doğan, who hates smoking, doesn’t believe that the teahouse men will adjust to the new rules. “Of course we know what will happen to the teahouses,” he said ominously.