June 26, 2019 7:21 pm
Updated: June 26, 2019 7:22 pm

Shisha bars could be banned in Edmonton as early as July 2020

July 4, 2018: It's a form of smoking that is still allowed in public places in Edmonton but now the city wants to restrict the use of shisha consumption. Vinesh Pratap has the details.

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Consumption of hookah or shisha in bars and lounges could be banned across Edmonton earlier than expected.

The community services committee recommended the ban happen six months earlier than originally proposed — July 2020 instead of January 2021.

Since a committee voted on the issue Wednesday, it’s now one (full council) vote away from becoming law.

READ MORE: City committee moves to ban shisha consumption in Edmonton lounges

Last July, the same committee voted to have city staff come up with bylaw changes that would prohibit public consumption of the herbal product, which is often mixed with various flavours.

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“We had evidence finally before us that the health effects are similar to that of tobacco,” said Councillor Scott McKeen on July 4, 2018. McKeen added that he’s seen reports of some shisha establishments using illicit tobacco in their product as well and pointed to several Middle Eastern countries, where shisha smoking originates from, that have banned public consumption of the product.

“It’s a positive step and we think that a hookah ban is long overdue here in Edmonton,” Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said on Wednesday. “It’s good to know that within one year, we’re going to have completely smoke-free public establishments.”

READ MORE: Will Edmonton impose a hookah ban?

Omar Hagar, the owner and manager of Sahara Palace, says it will be hard on those who work for him.

“We have to start telling our employees for now that… in about a year from now, they’ll have to start finding new occupations because businesses will go down.”

“There will be probably about five or six of them — maybe more — that will go bankrupt because shisha is primary for them. When shisha is primary and shisha is banned, what can you do?” Hagar said.

He added he just spent $100,000 completing renovations to his business, anticipating hookah would be allowed as long as it was separated from families and children.

City administration has been in the middle of rewriting the rules that govern shisha bars after rewriting other bylaws to govern cannabis use.

READ MORE: Alberta government considering banning shisha in restaurants

Hagen hopes the provincial government takes a cue from Edmonton.

“The province needs to take a hands-on role on trying to protect kids from tobacco use and vaping and hookah use,” he said. “Tobacco use has an enormous impact on our health care system and our economy. And, in fact, the Alberta government has a much bigger vested interest in reducing tobacco use than the City of Edmonton. Hopefully, this action will inspire the provincial government to follow suit.

“This comes down to combustion toxicology,” Hagen explained. “Any organic substance that’s burnt at low temperature — whether it’s paper or leaves or trees — produces hundreds of chemical compounds. Some of those are toxic; some of them cause cancer. Tobacco, shisha and cannabis are no exception to that general rule.”

If council approves this recommendation, as is expected, these kinds of bars and lounges will be illegal in Edmonton.

A final decision and implementation is expected in July.

Watch below (Dec. 2, 2016): It’s a growing trend in Edmonton but some see it as a major health issue. Should something be done when it comes to the popularity of hookah lounges? Vinesh Pratap reports.

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