The number of shisha bars has more than trebled in recent years, which has caused misery for residents living near rogue premises linked to persistent anti-social behaviour and has led to concern about the health impacts of shisha.
Shisha premises that illegally allow indoor smoking or allow those under 18 to smoke the flavoured tobacco can currently be tackled using smoke-free laws. However, prosecutions are taking up to a year, and bar owners are increasingly undeterred by one-off fines of up to £2,500.
The true ownership of shisha premises is often deliberately secretive, which hinders the ability of councils and police to take effective action against them.
The LGA is calling for government to modernise the list of activities councils can ‘opt-in’ to licence, including shisha bars. This would make it easier to monitor them and seize equipment or revoke licences for repeat offenders breaching conditions or breaking the law.
It would also strengthen the ability of town hall public health teams to ensure owners work with them to educate customers about the misconception that smoking shisha is safer than smoking cigarettes.
According to the World Health Organization, smoking a shisha pipe for one hour can be equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “We would always rather work with shisha bars to ensure they operate legally rather than prosecute them, but café owners are more likely to obey the law if they knew they might lose their licence.”