Lancashire County Council is joining forces with local authorities across England and calling on central government to help councils to clamp down on shisha bars that flout smokefree laws.
Smoking shisha tobacco is growing in popularity across the country and there has been a 210 per cent increase in the number of bars across the UK in the last five years. This is in part because shisha bars are not breaking the smoking ban if 50 per cent of their exterior wall space is open.
It is estimated that the amount of nicotine inhaled from a half-hour shisha session is equivalent to five cigarettes.
Many people who visit shisha bars are young people who are often under the age of 15 and are unaware of the risks that smoking tobacco causes.
These concerns have led Lancashire County Council to join local authorities across the country in writing to Anna Soubry MP, undersecretary of state for public health, asking for the government to consider introducing measures including:
• Increasing the penalties that would help councils to deal with owners and providers of shisha bars who flout the smokefree legislation.
• Changes in the law to make it compulsory to license premises selling tobacco to help reduce the number of young people aged 16 and under buying tobacco from shisha bars and other businesses.
County Councillor Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "The smokefree legislation was introduced in 2007 and has been a real success, resulting in fewer people being admitted to hospital with smoking-related illnesses.
"However, shisha bars present a new challenge. The smoke from shisha is very concentrated and can be much more powerful than cigarette smoke. However, because it is cooled many people think it is less harmful ! than cigarette smoke.
"Shisha is also very popular with young people and we're concerned it could encourage more people under the age of 16 to take up smoking.
"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.
"We've written to the Government along with our district councils and other local authorities to ask them to consider these changes in the law."
There have been some issues with shisha bars ignoring smokefree legislation in Lancashire and the county council wants to help stop this from becoming a bigger problem in the future. In May, an illegal shisha bar was shut down in Blackburn and Two girls, aged 13 and 15, had to be taken to a ‘designated place of safety’ after an early morning raid.
Lancashire County Council has been responsible for leading on public health issues across the county from April 2013.