News / Toronto

Proposed Toronto hookah ban called a 'personal attack' on culture

Toronto is inching closer to banning the use of hookahs in licensed businesses.

The Board of Health voted Monday to recommend that City Council make the ban effective on Oct. 1. The vote followed a report by medical officer of health David McKeown.

The report concluded that hookah use is on the rise among young people, and that smoking from them can cause health and safety issues.

Alex Saddiqi, who owns a downtown hookah bar and lounge, called the decision “ridiculous.”

“It’s something they want to do out of spite not because of health concerns,” said Saddiqi, owner of 70 Down bar in Yorkville.

For him, there are plenty of other health problems the city could tackle.

“Why are we selling alcohol?” he said. “Nobody’s going to smoke a hookah and get in the car and kill somebody.”

He doesn’t think banning hookahs will affect his business because people come to the lounge for more than that.

But, he considers it a “personal attack” on certain cultures. Hookah smoking has long been popular among people from Middle Eastern communities but has recently become trendy for people of all backgrounds.

Samira Mohyeddin, meanwhile, said the city should have taken action a long time ago. Hookahs are on offer in her restaurant and, largely, bring in teenage crowds.

“I mean, I don’t understand why people can’t smoke cigarettes in public but they can smoke hookahs,” she said.

It is, however, “ironic” that the ban is being discussed now that hookahs have hit the mainstream, she said.

“Nobody cared about the health of Arabs and middle easterners,” she said. “But now that Mr. Bobby and Johnny are smoking it, it becomes a health hazard.”

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