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Shisha and the law for lounge-owners

If you own or run a cafe or lounge where you have water pipes, it must be smoke-free. The law is there to protect people from second-hand smoke.

Why we don't support shisha businesses in Newham

There are health risks:
  • smoking shisha for an hour is the same as smoking 100 cigarettes.
  • there is also a risk to smokers from shared mouthpieces.
Find out more about the health risks from smoking shisha.

We also get complaints, from members of the public, of anti-social behaviour at shisha lounges, including noise and other disturbances; gang-related crime; theft; and the sale of tobacco to underage customers.

If you want to run a shisha business

If you run a business supplying shisha in water pipes, you need to follow a number of different laws, including those on:
  • smoking
  • planning
  • health and safety
  • trading standards.
We will inspect your building and take action if we need to make sure you are following the law.
We will not advise you on how to avoid the law.

Smoking areas

You must not allow your customers or staff to smoke in ‘enclosed or substantially enclosed’ public places or workplaces. The ban applies to smoking through water pipes whether or not the shisha contains tobacco.

Contact us to find out more:

Building a smoking shelter

Find out about building a smoking shelter.

Selling shisha

Shisha customers will normally share pipes. You must check the age of everyone smoking. It may be sensible not to allow under-18s into the building.
To make sure your business does not sell to under-18s, you need to:
  • ask young customers to prove their age; the best way to do this is to ask for proof of age from anyone you think may be under 25 years old,
  • train your staff well so that they know the law and what action to take; staff are personally responsible if they break the law by selling to someone who is too young
  • keep a ‘refusals book’ so you know who has been refused entry before, and check it regularly so that you know that staff are following your instructions.

What you can sell

You can only sell shisha tobacco products which have been legally imported into the UK. We will want to see evidence that they are legal. So:
  • keep invoices for the products in the building, we may need your suppliers’ details; if you paid less then £85 per kg, the products will clearly not be legal
  • make sure the packages you buy have the same warnings on them that you see on a cigarette packet; if they haven’t, they’re not legal
  • pay import tax if you import the products yourself (in person or using the internet); there are also other laws you must follow.
If you cannot find a legal source of shisha tobacco, you will only be able to sell herbal shisha legally. 

Warning signs

Your business must display large notices, which say: ‘It is illegal to supply tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18’. You must display them in anywhere you serve tobacco. 
You will also need to label the water pipes that contain tobacco products. The labels will need to be the same written and picture warnings that are on cigarette packs. As labelling pipes is difficult, we may accept other, similar labels on menus, on cards given with the pipes or displayed in the building instead.

Making sure staff and customers are safe

The extra risks that come with supplying shisha include infectious diseases, burning charcoal and spillages.

You must think about these risks, and if you employ five or more people you need to put the risks in writing. You will need to train staff so they know how to control the risks and act should something happen.
Take these extra risks into account when you fill in the fire risk assessment and emergency plan for your building. Phone the London Fire Brigade's Fire Safety Team on 020 8555 1200 for more information.

You must also:
  • unlock fire exits, and make sure they have clear and proper signs
  • clean and disinfect water pipe mouthpieces and hoses between uses - it is best to use disposable mouthpieces
  • make sure your staff use their own personal mouthpiece if they light the pipes, and then put a clean one onto the pipe
  • make sure there is enough ventilation to stop the build up of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. This gas can kill.

What we can do if you run a shisha business illegally

If you run a shisha business illegally, we will prosecute you. And if you are licensed to sell alcohol, your licence may also be at risk.
If you do not follow the law properly we will visit you regularly to inspect the building, until we know that you meet the law. 
Ask us now for advice about running your business. Don’t wait until we have to take action against you. Contact us by email or phone 020 3373 7709.

More information on smoke-free living and working

For a detailed guide to the law: ​​
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