Calgary

Calgary shisha bar owner worries about possible waterpipe smoking ban by city

Calgary shisha bars are bracing for a potential ban that could force them to close or change how they operate.

'We would still probably be able to survive but just barely'

The City of Calgary is seeking input from Calgarians on whether there should be tighter restrictions on smoking and vaping in public spaces. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Calgary shisha bars are bracing for a potential ban that could force them to close or change how they operate.

The city is taking another look at all of its smoking, waterpipe smoking and vaping rules to see if there is a public appetite for greater restrictions.

Officials are looking at imposing smoke-free public parks and outdoor events, and they're asking Calgarians if the city should ban shisha smoking in bars and restaurants.

The city bans cigarette smoking indoors, but there are about 30 bars and restaurants in Calgary where people can smoke shisha.

But smoking shisha causes many of the same diseases as tobacco does, including cancer and heart disease, cautions Dr. Brent Friesen, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services.

"Research tells us that smoking shisha is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking," said Friesen.

"The charcoal used to heat the waterpipe adds additional health risks as it produces high levels of carbon monoxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals."

He added that it's a common misconception that the water in a shisha pipe filters out the harmful elements from the smoke.

"The water cools the smoke, allowing the person to inhale more deeply and absorb more of the toxins into their lungs," he said.

But Mireille Harris, who co-owns Mazaj Lounge and Restaurant, says it's important to distinguish between tobacco shisha and the herbal varieties and non-toxic charcoal that are used in her establishments.

"So it can be done completely differently from what they are trying to say," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

Harris says she will have to think of alternatives for the business if a ban comes into effect.

"It won't be one where we would probably have to close our doors. I mean, it will be a struggle, 100 per cent. It'll be a struggle because we do have two locations," she said.

"We would still probably be able to survive but just barely."

The city's public survey also asks whether Calgarians want to ban smoking and vaping in outdoor public parks, outdoor public events and hotel rooms.

The city survey is open until July 7. Administration will review the public responses and make recommendations to council later this year.

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