Up in smoke

Stock hookah photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The city’s proposed Smoking in Public Places Bylaw is heading to a regular city council meeting for final consideration after a rocky ride through executive committee on Monday.

Council members ultimately voted to pass the motion, which was based on feedback from a citywide survey and recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), but only after more than 20 minutes of debate.

While most councilors were in favour of the bylaw, there were questions about the health effects of hookah lounges, safe distances for smoking outside of hockey rinks and whether or not outdoor facilities like Little Red River Park should be included in the ban.

Canadian Cancer Society spokesperson Donna Pasiechnik was on hand to present the case against hookah lounges. She said the CCS was pleased with the majority of the proposed bylaw, but were concerned there was a lack of information around the hookah water pipe issue.

Pasiechnik said shisha, the tobacco used in hookah pipes, is more widely available than ever thanks to the Internet, which has lead to an increase in the number of youth trying it.

According to a Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey conducted roughly four years ago, eight per cent of youth ages 15 to 19 had tried using a hookah pipe. That number jumped to 29 per cent for young adults from 20 to 24 years of age.

“Go to the internet and you will find hundreds and hundred of tutorials on how to use a water pipe, which have helped to brand hookah as a modern trendy cousin to the way it was originally used,” she explained.

Pasiechnik found some support from Mayor Greg Dionne, who wants to see an age limit on hookah lounges. However, he added that smoking in general is not illegal, and Canadians have the right to smoke if they wish.

There is only one licensed hookah lounge operating in the City of Prince Albert, and Dionne said he has plans to meet with the owner next week to discuss the issue.

Despite being used for centuries in countries like India and Pakistan, the effects of using hookah pipes are not widely known. According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, hookah smoking contains many of the same dangers as regular cigarettes, but with the added risk that an uncleaned pipe may spread infectious diseases.

Still, researchers at the clinic say there is much to learn.

“While research about hookah smoking is still emerging, evidence shows that it poses many dangers,” reads a short segment on the clinic’s website.

Hookah smoking remains popular in rural areas of many Middle Eastern and Asian countries. However, some cities, like Delhi, India, have voted to ban it.

Roughly 900 people responded to the city’s smoking ban survey that was used to create the bylaw. More than two-thirds of the respondents were female, 75 per cent had lived in Prince Albert for 10 years or longer.

Nearly 600 people said they were in favour of regulating hookah lounges, while roughly 200 opposed it. Another 110 said they were not sure.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@pherald.sk.ca