Reforming the regulation of shisha lounges

A debate will be held in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 5 December 2018 from 2.30-4pm on reforming the regulation of shisha lounges. The debate will be opened by Shabana Mahmood MP.

Shisha (also referred to as waterpipe, hookah, and narghile smoking) is a method of smoking tobacco (or sometimes a herbal mixture) through a bowl and a pipe/tube.  Historically, it has been widely used in the Middle East, and parts of Africa and Asia but has become more popular in the UK.  Data from the 2016 Health survey for England reported that 15% of individuals had ever used shisha, and 1% had used it in the last month.

Smoking of any kind (including water pipe/shisha smoking) increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory conditions:

This is true whether you smoke cigarettes, bidi (thin cigarettes of tobacco wrapped in brown tendu leaf) or shisha (also known as a water pipe or hookah).

A World Health Organization study has suggested that during one session on a water pipe (around 20 to 80 minutes), a person can inhale the same amount of smoke as a cigarette smoker consuming 100 or more cigarettes.

Like cigarette smoke, water pipe smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals and toxic gases such as carbon monoxide.

For more background information on shisha smoking and health impacts, see the following sources:

Regulation of shisha smoking

Shisha smoking is subject to the ban on smoking in public places in the UK alongside all other smoking.  For more information on the smoking ban, please see the 2015 library briefing paper, Smoking in public places.  As a tobacco product, shisha is also subject to controls relating to all tobacco products, such as a ban on sale to those under 18.  For more information on these, see the 2017 library briefing paper, Tobacco control policy overview.

In terms of licensing, the Licensing Act 2003 only covers the sale of alcohol and certain forms of “regulated entertainment”. Licences are usually issued by a local authority.  The Licencing Act 2003 applies in England and Wales only, separate licencing legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Shisha bars are not required to have a licence under this legislation unless they are regulated for another reason, such as the sale of alcohol.

Shisha bars will also be subject to the national and local planning regime.  Further information about the regulation of shisha bars in England is provided in this guidance document for businesses from Westminster Council.

Concerns have been expressed about the impact of noise and anti-social behaviour from some shisha bars, especially in residential areas, and this has led to calls for a new regulatory regime for these premises.  Shabana Mahmood, who will lead the debate in Westminster Hall, has been campaigning for the introduction of a new system of statutory licencing for shisha cafes.  The Birmingham Mail reported that Ms Mahmood has said that the current regulation is “totally inadequate:”

Properly licensed and located, shisha lounges can provide a good place to meet and relax.

The problem is that the licensing regime is totally inadequate, and all too often the lounges are in residential areas.

All too often, it’s local residents that pay the price, with anti-social behaviour, noise problems and more.

I’ll be speaking to the council to see what more can be done to encourage responsible management – and also writing to the Government Minister to press once more for stronger, statutory licensing.

Some press articles on concerns relating to shisha bar regulation and proposed changes to the current regime are included below: 

Some local councils have introduced strategies to address some of the issues associated with shisha bars.  Examples of some of this work are included below:

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