Hookahs may soon be banned in Toronto businesses
Timur Nersesov blows smoke while enjoying a hookah filled with rose and mint tobacco at Arabica Bistro in Dearborn, Mich., on Friday, April 9, 2010. (Carlos Osorio/AP Photo)
Toronto's top doctor wants the use of hookahs in Toronto businesses banned.
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, says the use of hookahs is on the rise among young people, who often mistakenly believe it is a safe form of smoking.
"Using a hookah to smoke any substance poses health risks, such as heart and lung diseases, lung cancer and other respiratory problems to users and those exposed to second-hand smoke, including employees," McKeown said in a statement released on Monday.
Hookahs, also known as waterpipes, are used to smoke tobacco or shisha, non-tobacco herbal products. McKeown said contrary to popular belief, the water in the pipe doesn't filter harmful chemicals and particles from the smoke.
A report recommending the ban will be presented at a Toronto Board of Health meeting on June 1. It wants the city to prohibit the use of hookahs in licensed Toronto businesses by Oct. 1.
Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA), smoking tobacco in hookahs while inside a public space or workplace isn't allowed. The act, however, doesn't prohibit indoor smoking of shisha. McKeown says this "undermines" Ontario's smoke-free laws.
"Hookah use in public places … contributes to the social acceptability of smoking in public," McKeown said. "This change is an important step toward creating safer and healthier spaces for residents."
The report comes after a Board of Health request from March 2014 to address the risks of hookah use in commercial spaces.
The city says air-quality monitoring at Toronto's hookah businesses suggests that tobacco can sometimes be served without the patrons' knowledge. Harmful levels of air pollutants have also been measured at these businesses, even if tobacco is not being served.