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Minto looks to county, province for lead on hookah regulation

by Patrick Raftis

MINTO - The local health unit is asking municipalities to regulate hookah establishments and restrict them from setting up in the region.

“Now is the time to take action out of concern for the health and safety of your constituents,” states Medical Officer of Health and Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health CEO Dr. Nicola Mercer in a letter to municipal CAOs in the region.

A hookah or a water pipe is used to smoke flavoured tobacco as well as non-tobacco herbal shisha.

In her letter, Mercer notes a recent review on the toxicity, physical properties and disease risks of hookah water pipe smoke, found that smoking “herbal” shisha likely presents the same disease risks as tobacco shisha.

Mercer also points out 20 Ontario municipalities, including Ottawa, Toronto and Peterborough, have already taken steps to regulate hookah establishments.

Mercer expressed concern that all tobacco and herbal water pipe smoke contains toxicants, including carbon monoxide, tar, polycyclic hydrocarbons and volatile aldehydes.

“Toxicants measured in herbal smoke equal or exceed those found in tobacco water pipe smoke,” Mercer explained.

“Water pipe smokers inhale and absorb the same toxicants that are known to cause cancer, heart and lung disease, and dependence in cigarette smokers.”

Currently, non-tobacco or herbal shisha hookah smoking is not regulated under the Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA).

The act specifically prohibits “smoking or holding of lighted tobacco” in any enclosed public place or enclosed workplace. The letter states many hookah proprietors claim their shisha is “herbal” and is heated, not lit, so the SFOA does not apply to them.

“I hope that you will consider taking this important step to protect the health of residents before hookah establishments become established in your municipality. WDGPH can provide research and examples of policies from other jurisdictions,” the letter concludes.

On March 7 Minto councillor Dave Turton suggested council should support the healthy unit’s efforts on the issue.

“We haven’t got one right presently,” commented Mayor George Bridge,

“How do we know?” asked Turton.

“I don’t think they put up a sign necessarily,” commented councillor Judy Dirkson.

Bridge said he is hoping regulation will come from the county or provincial level.

“I’m hoping they will put this under the … guidelines that we already have, the non-smoking guidelines … I don’t want us to have to do the bylaw to necessarily enforce it. I’d rather see it enforced like … with the smoking bylaw, provincially,” said Bridge.

Turton  said, “If there’s a threat to our community – it’s something we all should know about.”

CAO Bill White noted the letter was addressed specifically to CAOs of Wellington and Dufferin Counties, and the City of Guelph, and merely copied to the lower tier municipalities.

“I think they’re seeing it as more of a regional function,” said White. “Frankly, for a municipality our size, I would rather not see us delve into that.”

“Do we not regulate this already?” asked deputy mayor Ron Faulkner, noting existing commercial regulations might allow for inspection and enforcement of some aspects of such businesses.   

“As far as hookah is concerned, you’ve got to be careful about entering into an area we cannot enforce,” Faulkner added.

Bridge agreed to monitor the county’s handling of the health unit request and keep council apprised of developments.


March 17, 2017


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