Toronto Council Bans Hookah Smoking At Licensed Hookah Lounges

The City Council of Toronto has decided to ban the use of hookah in licensed establishments within the city beginning spring of next year.

In a vote of 34 to 3, the council opted to stop hookah smoking using tobacco or other substances at restaurants, bars and lounges following the release of a report from Toronto's medical officer of health that revealed serious risks to the public such as sending out a misleading message to young people.

"The message today really is that we're going to protect your health," Joe Mihevc, a member of the council, said. "This is a good news day for the City of Toronto."

Mihevc, who is the chair of Toronto's board of health, had pushed for the adoption of the ban on hookah smoking.

Mihevc said 70 of the local businesses that offer hookah smoking will be required to change their operation according to the ban.

He suggests for these establishments to transform their business format in a similar way that many restaurants did.

"We have heard so many stories of restaurants who thought that the world was going to end when they restricted tobacco smoking in the restaurants," Mihevc pointed out.

"I would say to them that you have to transform your business the same way many restaurants did...They found that their business actually went up."

The council's support of the recommendations effectively blocks a dissenting motion made by Councilor Jim Karygiannis, who has admitted that he smokes hookah in licensed establishments once a month.

Karygiannis had pushed for the creation of a separate license for hookah lounges, which would allow them to give customers non-tobacco products only. These establishments would also be allowed to serve only non-alcoholic drinks such as tea, juices and coffee.

In May, David McKeown, medical officer of Toronto, told the city council that scientific studies have found that hookah smoking is linked to the development of chronic health issues.

The habit also impedes efforts in discouraging young people from engaging in smoking as well as put other people's health at risk from the poor quality of air.

McKeown pointed out that in a recent study, a person who is exposed to at least two hours of air in a hookah establishment is already comparable to smoking 10 cigarettes.

Photo: Jeremiah Roth | Flickr 

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