Manchester City Council and the NHS launched a campaign publicising the dangers of shisha last week.
The drive aims to make people aware of the health risks associated with smoking shisha and that, as with cigarettes, it is illegal to smoke shisha in an enclosed space.
“First and foremost we want to make people aware that smoking shisha is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes and is harmful to people’s health,” Councillor Glynn Evans, Manchester City Council’s executive member for Adults’ Health and Wellbeing said.
The campaign, which kicked off on Monday 8 October, runs for eight weeks and is focused around Rusholme, because of the concentration of shisha bars in the area.
As a part of the effort, council enforcement officers will be handing out a £50 fine to anyone caught smoking shisha in an area that does not have three sides open to the outside.
In shisha bars, flavoured tobacco is smoked through pipes, a Middle Eastern tradition.
There are a number of common myths associated with smoking shisha, one being that because the tobacco is flavoured and passes through water before it is inhaled it is not as dangerous as cigarettes. But with shisha there is an added risk because more smoke is inhaled.
“Many people are still unaware that shisha pipes actually contain tobacco as the use of herbs or fruit as flavourings masks the tobacco, so we want to give them the facts,” said Councillor Evans.
Health experts have said shisha smokers are at risk of similar health problems associated with cigarette smoking, such as heart disease and cancer. Users can also become addicted just as with other tobacco products.
David Regan, Director of Public Health, said, “There has been an alarming rise in the number of shisha bars and the number of young people taking up smoking through this route.
“It is important that we educate young people so that it prevents the next generation from joining what seems to be a growing trend.”
In the last three years there has been a large increase in the number of shisha bars on the curry mile, with around 30 opening in the area since 2009.
“They can spring up quite readily because they don’t actually have to have a license apart from to sell food and play music,” a council spokesperson told The Mancunion.
Many shisha bars in Rusholme allow smoking indoors, and over the last year nine establishments in Manchester have been prosecuted for violations of the smoking ban.
“Since December 2011 we’ve had eight different bars prosecuted [in Rusholme] and the total fines for those were nearly £15,000 in total, plus another bar in Chorlton,” said the spokesperson. “All were for allowing smoking inside.”
“You can technically allow smoking outside if you’ve got outside premises but obviously some of them don’t. Shisha bars that have no outside space are automatically flouting the law.
“If someone is found smoking shisha inside, then like smoking a cigarette in a café, they could be fined.”
Rusholme Business Association Chair Mr Shabir Mughal felt it was unfair for shisha bars not to obey law as other businesses in the area do.
“They’re allowing people to smoke inside the premises. If someone comes to my restaurant and wants to smoke they have to go outside,” he said. “It is not fair-trading.”