Edmonton

Edmonton city council to hold off on shisha ban

Edmonton city council will consider banning the use of shisha in public venues, but will engage with shisha venue owners before deciding on a timeline.

City staff will consult with shisha venue owners, consider allowing vaping

Hookah and shisha pipes date back centuries and origins are found in the Middle East, South Africa and India. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Edmonton city council will consider banning the use of shisha in public venues, but will engage with shisha venue owners before deciding on a timeline.

A committee recommended on Wednesday that city council proceed with a first reading of the bylaw that would ban the public consumption of shisha, also referred to as hookah. 

The Edmonton Hookah Cultural Committee (EHCC), a coalition of 12 shisha venues, argued that shisha smoking is a cultural tradition that shouldn't be lumped in with tobacco and cannabis regulations. 

"We're looking forward to talking to the administration about what the options could be to make a healthier and safer environment for patrons and for employees, while still maintaining our business model and maintaining our cultural model," said Vieri Berretti, spokesperson for the EHCC. 

Vieri Berretti (left) and Omar Hagir, who manages Sahara Palace, were relieved to hear that city administration will consult with them before banning shisha smoking in public venues. (CBC)

City administration will also consult with the province regarding future cannabis lounge regulations, which may open the door to allowing electronic vaping in some venues.

"We are more than willing to discuss any option, including vaping in restaurant and lounges that offer hookah," Berretti said. 

Coun. Jon Dziadyk argued that an outright ban on shisha smoking without proper consultation would be inappropriate.  

"Small businesses in Edmonton would be severely impacted by this ban and we haven't properly consulted with them or taken the time to really recognize how they're important cultural spaces," Dziadyk said. 

The sale of shisha accounts for about 60 per cent of revenue for a hookah lounge, said the EHCC. 

Coun. Scott McKeen emphasized the public health concerns that are associated with second hand shisha smoke.

He urged shisha business owners to prepare for an eventual ban. 

"Please plan for a day when water pipes, with combustion at least, will be ruled out in Edmonton," said McKeen.