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Hookah pipes banned in licensed Toronto establishments

Last Updated Nov 4, 2015 at 8:20 pm EDT

Dozens of hookah bars across the GTA may soon be closing up shop after city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning the use of hookah pipes inside licensed establishments in the city.

City councillors voted 34-3 in favour of the ban on the pipes at businesses licensed by the city.

The motion came after the city’s medical officer of health raised health concerns about the effect of hookah smoke and said it sends the wrong message to youth.

“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,” Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, said in a release brought forth to the Toronto Board of Health in June.

“Hookah smoking is on the rise among young people, who often mistakenly believe it is a safe form of smoking.”

Hookahs, often referred to as waterpipes, are used to smoke moist tobacco or non-tobacco herbal products (shisha), using charcoal to heat the substance.

Coun. Joe Mihevic says people can smoke hookah at home all they want, but when it came to doing it in places like bars or restaurants, it was time to restrict it.

“It’s time to do the right thing for the health of Torontonians,” he explained. “That’s what today’s decision, very strongly endorsed by council, was all about.”

While some will argue that smoking hookah is different than smoking cigars or cigarettes, mayor John Tory thinks it’s just semantics.

“This is smoking. Really the debate about what people are smoking is kind of, in a way, academic, because I do accept the evidence of the medical officer of health that anything you burn and inhale is not going to be good for your health.”

The ban goes into effect in April 1 and Tory is hoping that gives businesses the time to adjust to the new ruling.

“I just hope that what we can do is take that time between now and April and have those businesses be able to make some adjustments to the new reality, which shouldn’t really come as any surprise to them that sooner or later people would come along and say ‘well this is just smoking of a different kind.'”

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong and Coun. Jim Karyigiannis were the three votes against the motion.

With files from Momin Qureshi, 680 NEWS