Vancouver bylaws that ban smoking at hookah lounges upheld in court

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Model smoking hookah in a cafe via Shutterstock

After a lengthy legal battle, the City of Vancouver’s bylaw prohibiting smoking in business premises and common areas has been upheld and two Vancouver hookah lounge owners have been found guilty of breaching the controversial bylaw.

Abdolabbas Abdiannia of Ahwaz Hookah House and Abdolhamid Mohammadian of the Persian Tea House were fined back in 2009 for breaking the bylaw, which was introduced in 2007. At the time, the bylaw contained an exemption for hookah and cigar lounges, before the City flipped its decision and ticketed the two business owners only nine months later.

Abdiannia and Mohammadian took the matter to the court system, arguing that the ban violates religious and cultural rights, as smooking hookahs is closely associated with Muslim practices.

They also insisted that because provincial tobacco control laws allowed hookah bars to operate as long as they don’t use tobacco or tobacco blends, there should not have been a fine since both businesses switched to a herbal shisha which doesn’t contain tobacco.

In addition, an argument was made that because the shisha is never lit or burning, it shouldn’t technically be considered as smoking.

However, Justice William F.W. Yee sided with The City, saying testimonies proved that hookah smoking poses a significant health risk. The cultural argument didn’t hold up as a difference maker either, as Yee noted people could still smoke in their homes.

According to the business owners’ lawyer Dean Davison, Abdiannia and Mohammadian may consider appealing the decision.

 

Featured Image: Model smoking hookah in a cafe via Shutterstock

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Jeff Clowers is a former Editorial Intern. He is a BCIT Journalism grad and avid sports fan - Go Eagles! Covering all the happenings of the Greater Vancouver area.
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