homeMonday 8th March 2021

Councils call for shisha licensing

Corin Williams11/09/2013 - 13:00

| comments Comments (0) |
Shisha bars are on the rise
Shisha bars are on the rise

A group of local authorities has written to public health minister Anna Soubry to ask for new legal powers to license shisha bars.

Lancashire County Council said it had joined forces with councils across England in response to an increasing and ‘resource intensive’ problem.

It said the government should consider introducing compulsory licensing for all premises selling tobacco products and increasing penalties for shisha bars flouting smoke-free legislation.

Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said he was concerned that shisha was ‘very popular’ with young people.

He said: ‘Many shisha bars seem undeterred by the current legislation and we think that by introducing compulsory licensing for places selling tobacco, giving more controls to issue higher fines, and making it easier to tackle under-aged tobacco sales, the government could make it easier for councils to clamp down on shisha bar owners who deliberately ignore the smokefree law.

Tower Hamlets Council told EHN it had dealt with 21 illegal shisha premises since 2009. Each year around 82 per cent of illegal premises voluntarily close, with the remaining subjected to legal controls.

Head of consumer and business regulations David Tolley said illegal premises often had their fire alarms disconnected.

He added: ‘It takes between six months and two years from the date of an offence to reach conviction.

‘Prosecutions for illegal shisha smoking are brought under the Health Act 2006. However, the law was designed to address the smoking of tobacco in an enclosed space and is not suited to dealing with shisha smoking.

‘Enforcement options available under Section 8 [4] of the Health Act 2006 which can be used to stop illegal shisha premises from operating include the seizure of pipes, use of police support, and obtaining enforcement support from planning control to issue enforcement notices for change of use and illegal structures.

‘However the maximum fines that can be given out by the courts do not tally with the resources needed to bring a prosecution for illegal shisha smoking. So there is net negative gain in public health and cost effectiveness for the council. Many local authorities ignore this potential public health issue as a result.’

Last month Public Health England (PHE), working with the CIEH and the Local Government Association, wrote to councils asking what kind of guidance would be useful in dealing with the proliferation of shisha bars.

The letter read: ‘For many local areas, addressing these issues has often been difficult and resource intensive.

‘We have been informed of the variable successes of areas that have, for example, undertaken extensive information and education campaigns or used planning permissions and restrictions.

‘When convictions for offences have been achieved, the fines have sometimes been small and have not made a significant impact upon the continuation of the business.’

Figures published last year by the British Heart Foundation revealed a 210 per cent increase in the number of shisha bars in the UK. In 2007 there were estimated to be 179 bars compared to 556 in 2012.

The charity, which collated data from freedom of information requests, found shisha bars were on the increase in around 40 per cent of councils.

- A PHE survey of local authority requirements in dealing with shisha bars can be found here. It is requested that local leads from public health, licensing and trading standards collaborate on a single response from each council.

EHN Jobs


Subscribe eNewsletter