Hookah regulations and health information

Hookah (water pipe) smoking banned in all work places and public places starting December 1, 2016

Ottawa City Council has enacted municipal regulations that ban the use of water pipes (also known as hookahs) in the same enclosed workplaces, enclosed public places and outdoor restaurant and bar patios where smoking of tobacco is prohibited. The municipal regulations also ban the use of water pipes in the Parkdale Market and Byward Market stands.

Since 2012, the City of Ottawa has banned the use of water pipes and non-tobacco products on outdoor City of Ottawa property.

Phase-in Period of the New Regulations

These changes will be rolled out over three phases:

  1. An education phase will run throughout the fall and winter to ensure a smooth transition for owners and employees of affected restaurants and bars. The new rules will be promoted through the media, advertising, social media and other information campaigns. 
  2. The warning phase will start December 1, 2016, and continue for 4 months. Ottawa Public Health staff and By-law & Regulatory Services staff will visit water pipe establishments to ensure they are aware of the new rules. In addition, efforts will be made to contact businesses, festivals and other organizations that could be affected.
  3. The charging phase will commence April 3, 2017. When this phase begins, by-law enforcement staff would issue tickets, as appropriate, that carry penalties.

For more information about the expanded smoke-free regulations, or to get help to quit smoking, please visit ottawa.ca/smokefree or call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with us through Facebook and Twitter.

What's a few toxins between friends?

A young woman exhales a cloud of smoke from a hookah in a social setting.

All hookah smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals and toxins, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and tar.

What is hookah smoking?

  • The hookah, also known as a water-pipe or shisha, is a device used to smoke tobacco product and herbal product that is specially made with molasses and flavouring. 

Why should I be concerned?

  • Hookah smoking carries many health risks and is gaining popularity among young adults due to the variety of flavoured product and the misperception that it is a “healthier” alternative to cigarette smoking.

Who’s using the hookah?

  • Ottawa data collected in 2014 shows that approximately 14% of people over the age of 18 in Ottawa have used a hookah at some point in their life, with nearly 50% of those aged 18 to 24 reporting that they have tried a hookah. 

  • Since 2006, hookah use among the Ontario population aged 18 and up has tripled from 3% to 10% in 2012.  

Why is hookah smoking dangerous to my health?

  • It can be addictive. The tobacco used in a hookah contains nicotine, the same highly addictive drug found in cigarettes.
  • Chemicals are absorbed into your body. The smoke from a hookah pipe contains chemicals and toxins including carbon monoxide, carcinogens, heavy metals and tar. The water in a hookah pipe does not act as a filter.
  • There are health risks.  Hookah smoking is associated with a number of poor health outcomes including lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight, carbon monoxide poisoning, adverse cardiac events and periodontal disease. 
  • You can catch an infectious disease.  There is a risk of contracting viruses and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, herpes, influenza, and oral disease from sharing the hose or mouthpiece of a hookah pipe.  The use of a disposable tip does not prevent the transmission of contagious diseases.
  • It produces second-hand smoke.  A recent study conducted by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit showed that the air quality in hookah bars tested in Toronto was unhealthy and potentially hazardous.

For more information check out the following link