THE MANAGER of a Blackburn shisha cafe has been accused of flouting new anti-smoking laws for a second time.

Muhammed Jaber pleaded not guilty to failing to stop people smoking in the Sahara Cafe on Darwen Street on October 26 and obstructing an enforcement officer.

Last month Mr Jaber, 53, of Arncliffe Avenue, Accrington, pleaded not guilty to similar a charge relating to September 2007, claiming Blackburn with Darwen council was trying to make an example of him.

Council bosses said they "did not take any pleasure in launching court proceedings" but that they were "just doing our job".

The two cases will be heard in separate hearings at Blackburn magistrates court in June.

After the previous case came to court, Mr Jaber insisted nobody had used the traditional Middle Eastern-style pipes in his cafe since smoking in public places became illegal last July.

But he said he the ban had had a devastating effect the ban on trade, with takings plummeting 70 per cent.

Shisha is an ancient Middle Eastern tradition in which fruit-scented tobacco is burnt using coal, passed through an ornate water vessel and inhaled through a hose.

Mr Jaber, who moved to Blackburn 22 years ago from Palestine, said he sold coals, flavoured tobacco or herbal fruit pulp and hired out the water-filtered shisha pipes to punters, but did not allow smoking inside anymore.

He said: "We tried to comply with the law. A lot of our customers come in to buy Shisha and want to smoke it in here but we do not let them.

"The smoking ban has affected everyone, not only me. But this is part of our culture."

Following the ban, campaigners lobbied the government to make an exception to the law - which banned smoking in enclosed public spaces - for Shisha.

But Chris Allen, head of environmental health and trading standards at the council, said: "Shisha smoking is far more dangerous than cigarette smoking. At the end of the day no-one is above the law of the land. All we are doing is enforcing the legal requirements. We don't take any great pleasure in this, we are just doing our job."

The case was adjourned until June 20.