Kent Trading Standards take action on shisha cafes across the county

Contributed by editor on Nov 05, 2019 - 08:30 AM


Six Trading Standards services across the South East, including Kent, joined forces with officers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other local agencies to tackle illegal supplies of shisha molasses and their associated health concerns.


During visits carried out over a two-month period, more than 140kg of molasses were seized and 40 businesses received advice on improvements required in order to operate within the law. Shisha molasses are either tobacco or herbal based, with flavouring, and both are taxed equally.

In Kent, 15 such premises were visited and 85kg of shisha was removed from the market. KCC Trading Standards are continuing to work with district councils to monitor the use of “smoking shelters” in various Kent towns. In one case premises were closed until the owner was able to make them compliant with smoke-free legislation by removing the roof of the enclosed area.

The project involved collaboration by teams including police, Environmental Health, licensing, planning and housing officers and representatives from fire and rescue services.

Following the visits, a number of businesses made the decision to stop all shisha activity with immediate effect. Having been advised on the health implications and requirements to continue within the law, many concluded it was not an area in which they wanted to continue operating.

In previous years shisha cafes have been popular in cities and metropolitan areas, albeit many have been subject to enforcement action as they are found to be operating incorrectly. Recently in the South East, a surge in the number of new venues offering shisha has been noted particularly in university towns and coastal locations. While some of these have operated for several years, they have until now gone under the radar until the combined expertise of the group were put into effect.

Dr Mohammed Jawad, a Research Fellow at Imperial College London, said that there many misconceptions about shisha that has led to a surge in use among children in UK’s major cities. Dr Jawad said: “Many people falsely believe that the smoke is filtered by water in the pipe, or that fruit used to flavour shisha molasses somehow makes it less harmful than cigarettes. The truth is that all the research done on shisha shows one thing: it is as bad for you as cigarettes.”

During the visits HMRC officers examined the tax implications of shisha products that are often smuggled into the UK. Trading Standards officers looked at age restrictions and health warnings provided at the time of supply and made checks to ensure that any shisha products that had been obtained legally with duty paid on them, were also legal products for supply in this country.

Environmental Health officers who took part in the campaign examined the premises for compliance with ‘smoke-free’ legislation under the Health Act 2006. Many of the cafes visited were found to have structures for which no planning permission had been received and created an enclosed smoking environment (where over 50% of the walls are either enclosed or could be enclosed). Where illegal smoking shelters were discovered, the enforcement agencies are continuing to liaise to make the shelters legal or conducting follow up checks to ensure that smoking within the shelters ceases.

Angela Baker, deputy director for health and wellbeing at PHE South East said: “The idea that smoking shisha is safer and not as addictive as smoking cigarettes is completely false. People shouldn’t be fooled; research has shown that shisha is linked to exactly the same serious and life-threatening diseases as cigarettes. Smoking shisha more than doubles the risk of lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birthweight and gum disease.

“Shisha also has added risks; because the smoke is cooled by passing through water, shisha smokers will often smoke for far longer and deeper than they would a cigarette. As a result, after 45 minutes of tobacco or herbal shisha use, expired air carbon monoxide, plasma nicotine and heart rate are substantially increased and these levels are equal to, or higher than exposure when smoking cigarettes.

“There have also been reports of carbon monoxide poisoning from waterpipe use, leading to headaches, dizziness and nausea, which is largely unseen in cigarette-smoking research.

“Shisha is covered by the same laws as other forms of tobacco in the UK, so this means you cannot buy them if you’re under 18 and you cannot smoke them in any enclosed public or work place.

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