‘Worse than cigarettes’: Rusholme councillor slams ‘secretive’ shisha bars that pose risk to young people

The growing numbers of shisha bars along Manchester’s Curry Mile are becoming a ‘big problem’ in the city according to one Rusholme councillor.

The number of lounges, where customers smoke tobacco using a bowl and water-pipe, has risen from one in 2009 to around 30 today.

The increase could be even bigger than that because the figure remains an estimate due to the anonymity most shisha bars operate under, with the owners and managers of most establishments unknown.

Now, Councillor Kate Chappell has expressed her frustration at the actions of these owners who continually flout the law against smoking in public places.

“The number of shisha bars in Manchester is a really big problem for us,” she told MM. “The bosses aren’t operating within the law and they know that.

“Some owners will be better than others, but I haven’t any confidence that they are running the business in an ethical manner.”

It is estimated that a person can inhale the same amount of smoke during an-hour long shisha session that they would from smoking over a hundred cigarettes.

Such health implications for young people venturing into shisha bars are an increasing worry for Councillor Chappell, who is also Executive Member for the Environment in Manchester.

“We are really concerned about the health impacts of shisha on young people,” she said.

“People are not really aware of the health problems shisha causes.

“People think it is not tobacco but it is and it is in fact a lot worse for you than smoking cigarettes.”

Another concern for the council is the risk shisha bars pose to their local environments in terms of fire safety.

In a bid to combat the problem, police and council officers raid shisha bars on a weekly basis fining anyone smoking shisha on the premises £50.

Owners have been issued with warnings, fined and in some cases the establishments have been shut down, but Councillor Chappell says none of these actions have much long-term impact.

“We do not know the identity of most owners so we have bars being closed down and then setting up again a week later under a different name,” she said.

“We fine the establishments as well, but these owners are making £2,000 a day so they are not bothered about getting fined.”

Indeed shisha bars are proving so lucrative within the Rusholme area they are actually threatening to put other establishments out of business.

“You are getting to a tipping point now where no other business can survive because the shisha bars make so much money they can drive the rent up,” said Councillor Chappell.

“I think we are getting to the stage where there is really an imbalance in the district centre of Rusholme.”

Councillor Chappell conceded that eradicating shisha bars from Manchester is a nigh-on impossible task and believes that the introduction of a licensing system for the establishments is the most constructive way forward.

“What we really need is special licensing for shisha bars and then we have got a clear owner and manager and we have been calling on national government to do this.

“That way we can determine whether these people are suitable proprietors of such an establishment.”

Picture courtesy of Lars Plougmann, with thanks.

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