The controversial hookah parlours are facing uncertainty again with the state health ministry set to issue a notification to all municipal corporations to ban licences given to restaurants to provide sheesha. The move comes after the state government recently committed to control tobacco consumption on World No Tobacco Day.
“A discussion with the additional chief secretary has already been held. The notification will be issued to all municipal corporations in Maharashtra since they provide licences to restaurants and cafes. The notification has been approved internally in the health department,” said Dr Sadhana Tayde, joint director at the Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
The DHS will instruct the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to prohibit hookah under the Bombay Shops and Establishment Act, 1948, and under clauses of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. The Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act will be applied across the state.
Current provision by the civic body permits restaurants and hotels to provide for hookah only in smoking zones and to customers aged over 18 years. Health activists, however, claim that the norm to not serve hookah to minors is not strictly followed. “We saw that several kids found hookah a gateway towards smoking and drug addiction. There is a huge margin for the restaurants to gain by serving hookah, which is why they are against a total ban,” said Dr Shubha Raul, former mayor and corporator who protested against hookah bars in 2008 and forced the civic body to bring in regulations to run them. According to her, while a restaurant can only designate 15 per cent of the total area for hookah, many flout the norms.
Other states like Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have already prohibited issuing licences to restaurants to provide hookah. Maharashtra state officials claimed that hookah can be banned under various provisions, including Food Safety and Standards Act, apart from COTPA and Establishment Act.
Scientific reports claim that hour-long hookah smoking involves 20-200 puffs that can generate 50 litres of smoke full of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals. “The BMC already has provisions for hookah parlours although, the implementation is not strict. If the state notifies a total ban, we will follow the notification,” a BMC official said.