More needs to be done to deal with the creeping health timebomb that is Leeds’s growing shisha culture, licensing bosses have been told.
A new report to Leeds City Council’s licensing committee says that water-pipe smoking is a “growing issue with significant health implications for the city”, however current legislation is just not good enough and “when prosecutions are taken, fines are generally low and do not discourage premises owners from operating”.
The report adds: “There is a common misconception that shisha smoking is exempt from the smoke-free legislation, and there has been an increase in the number of shisha bars in the Leeds area. Shisha smoking is a real risk to public health, so work is required through a combination of outreach and education, along with enforcement.”
Shisha is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit flavoured tobacco is charcoal roasted, passed through a water chamber and inhaled slowly, usually within a group session.
The report says that while most shisha smokers are from Middle Eastern or South Asian backgrounds, the practice is becoming increasingly popular among the wider community. It adds that a ‘niche tobacco’ awareness initiative spearheaded by West Yorkshire Trading Standards received 52 complaints relating to smoking in a smoke-free place in 2012/13.
The YEP reported earlier this year that two café owners were the first in the city to be prosecuted for allowing shisha to be smoked illegally indoors. The pair – who both ran premises in Roundhay Road – were left with fines and costs of more than £10,000. Smoking legislation allows any place which is “50 per cent or more enclosed” to allow smoking legally. Legal shisha cafes often have outdoor smoking tents or other increased ventilation means.