Hamilton officially bans waterpipe smoking in public places and workplaces


Published October 24, 2023 at 1:41 pm

Hamilton bans hookah smoking in indoor public places

If you regularly smoke a waterpipe (hookah) in Hamilton, you will be more limited as to where you can imbibe. 

Today (Oct. 24), the city announced that council approved a new bylaw prohibiting the use of waterpipes in all enclosed public places and workplaces, as well as outdoor patios, city-owned outdoor sports and recreational areas and schools. 

A hookah is used to smoke moist tobacco and tobacco-free herbal products.

The ban applies to hookah bars and lounges, but does not apply to public outdoor spaces such as sidewalks or private homes. The new bylaw requires business and property owners to ensure that customers, employees and visitors do not use waterpipes in any prohibited areas and ensure everyone is aware of the new restrictions.

Failure to comply with the bylaw could result in a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offence for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation. Fines can climb with subsequent offences, according to the city. 

According to the bylaw, waterpipes, much like other smoking products, can have a detrimental impact on public health.

“Waterpipe smoking has been associated with various disease and poor health outcomes, including lung cancer, negative pregnancy outcomes, poor oral health, dental disease, respiratory illness and impaired lung function linked to tobacco waterpipe formulations, and carbon monoxide exposure and reduced lung capacity linked to nontobacco formulations,” the bylaw reads. 

“Waterpipe smoking, in general, negatively affects indoor air quality for indicators including carbon monoxide and particulate matter, which are closely related to potential impacts on human health.” 

In a news release, the city said its bylaw aligns with those passed in neighbouring areas such as Niagara, Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto and other southern Ontario municipalities. 

Smoking other substances such as tobacco and cannabis is also restricted to public outdoor areas and private homes, and is not permitted in any enclosed indoor public space in Ontario. Vaping is also restricted. 

“Waterpipes filled with tobacco and/or herbal shisha contain harmful toxins and chemicals and waterpipe smoking has been linked to the same diseases as cigarette smoking, with multiple harmful health outcomes,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, in a statement. 

“In addition, waterpipe smoking releases harmful toxins into the air, negatively impacting the health of others through second-hand exposure. This new by-law will protect the health of Hamiltonians and ensure consistent rules with other smoking products.”

The city says enforcement officers are currently focused on educating residents about the bylaw, which came into effect last month, before progressing to warnings and charges. 

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