Reporter GEMMA SHERLOCK talks to the owner of the new shisha bar and investigates the controversial trend.
Lancaster is joining the hookah trend after welcoming its only shisha bar to the city.
Smoking shisha, also called hookah, has become a popular pastime among the party scene with bars popping up across the country.
Traditionally used by people from Middle Eastern countries, shisha is a way of smoking tobacco or flavoured tobacco through a bowl and pipe.
The new shisha bar at Mint, on Church Street, is run by Hamid Essa and his business partner, Ashley Myers.
“It has become really popular, especially with our students, the place gets packed,” said Hamid.
“I know a lot of non-smokers that love shisha, I think it is the aroma and the flavour, that is what makes people like it so much.”
Hamid uses a tobacco free shisha which is flavoured using molasses sugar.
The shisha is smoked through charcoal heated air being passed through a fruit mixture, which is bubbled through water before being inhaled.
“You are not supposed to inhale the smoke,” said the 29-year-old.
“You are meant to blow it out and enjoy it, it’s a bit like a cigar.”
Although shisha is becoming a widely used social activity some health organisations have warned of the potential risks to smoking the substance.
The Quit Squad, a service delivered by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and funded by Lancashire County Council, said shisha is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes.
Helen Hatcher, from the Quit Squad, said: “As shisha is burnt through charcoal, users can be exposed to high levels of the poisonous gas carbon monoxide which can be up to 17 times higher than from cigarettes.
“Evidence suggests smoking shisha can at least double your risk of lung cancer.
“Shisha traditionally contains sweetened or flavoured tobacco creating the misconception it is less harmful than smoking cigarettes – just because it doesn’t taste like a cigarette, doesn’t mean that it is safer or better for your health.”
There have also been some incidents of councils banning shisha bars across the UK due to health violations.
In Sheffield two city bar owners were fined more than £3,000 for allowing customers to smoke shisha pipes inside premises that should be smoke-free.
Misty Blue Limited, who ran the Ignite Shisha in Preston, were also prosecuted for failing to prevent customers from smoking in a smoke-free zone.
However Hamid says the shisha bar at Mint is following regulations and warns customers of the possible health risks.
He said: “There are so many regulations to follow, the council will not give permission to do it indoors, it has got to be 80 per cent open. But we have two balconies for the shisha bar.”
A spokesman from Lancaster City Council said: “The law currently classes the smoking of shisha in public places including restaurants, clubs and bars as the same as cigarette smoking.
“In considering allocating an area of the business for the purpose of smoking shisha, proprietors must ensure that it complies with the Health Act 2006 and The Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006. As with any area set aside for smoking in bars and restaurants, the majority of it must be in the open air and to the satisfaction of the local council’s Environmental Health Team.
“New shisha bars must also have planning permission, a valid fire safety certificate and ensure steps have been taken to keep noise, light pollution and exposure to second hand smoke to a minimum.”
Mint’s shisha bar was visited by a member of the city council’s Environmental Health Team who is working with the owners to ensure the new shisha area complies with necessary regulations.