Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Shisha feels weight of smoking ban

A shisha bar in Finsbury Park, north London, that permitted smoking in contravention of the law, has been shut down owing £6,000 in fines and costs.

An impassioned article about the fate of shisha bars following the ban was published by the BBC in July 2007. As usual in such cases consultation appears to have been minimal. An official guide describes how shisha bars and cafés are included in the smoking ban provisions that were enacted in 2007. 

The Edgeware Road Association, which produced the video below, hoped to gain exemption from the smoking ban on the grounds that it threatened local cultural expression. This bid has not been successful to date. 

People do attend shisha bars to smoke shisha. A hookah pipe is not something you take to work with you and shisha-smoking is far more context specific than tobacco smoking.  (It's also very pleasant – I tried it recently.) The context is social situations in public lounges and cafés where people enter knowing what's likely to happen – not unlike licensed premises, cafés and restaurants as we knew them before 2006. 

I've no idea whether shisha bars still hope for an exemption. Much as I sympathise with their situation and much as I accept that many people would find shisha smoke altogether more wholesome than tobacco smoke, it is not only shisha culture that's had a coach and horses driven through it by smoking ban legislation. All social venues have been affected, whether used for shisha or ordinary tobacco, many have been adversely affected and many destroyed. This is not a cause for special pleading, for saying 'their poison is worse than ours', it's a cause for working together and realising that no legislation that has the effect of closing down social venues can possibly be in the interests of public health.

Even it insists 'smoking poses a serious threat to non-smokers', depriving millions of people of their preferred social venues and businesses shows only contempt for other people's livelihoods and preferences. 

The smoking of shisha pipes is under threat the world over, because the WHO has declared shisha smoking to be a passive smoking risk. Its home is the Middle East. Any resistance to suppressing shisha smoking lounges must unite not only with local efforts against smoking bans but also international efforts against prohibition.
One scholar who has taken on the challenge has been Kamal Chaouachi, a Tunisian-born medical anthropologist. In his words:
In these conditions, the challenge was not less than becoming the unofficial "spokeperson" of the hundreds of millions of voice-less (wo)men in the street, particularly in Asia and Africa where hookahs have been around for centuries. These persons – who often cannot read English or challenge the materials published in biomedical journals – have often felt powerless after being hurt by the pseudo-scientific and technical language of world "waterpipe" experts suddenly interested in their daily life.
Dr Chaouachi attended and addressed the Second World Conference Against Prohibition organised by TICAP in 2010. I am not yet well acquainted with his work but dipping in has been informative. He insists, in common with many of us, that anti-smoking is an ideology:
"Throughout history, whenever an ideology is given a political machine, it becomes a vehicle for cruelty and destruction. Ideologies do not recognize individuals, gray areas, self-criticism or anything outside their narrow boundaries. For in service of the ultimate truth, all means and sacrifices are justified. Corporate interest, on the other hand, is a driving force in many conflicts and wars as well as global health and environmental problems. We see political ideologies or aggressive economic interests—or worse, both—at the heart of every current human or natural conflict. Our world today, alas, is shaped by greed and politics."
Emphasis in the original. (He quotes the words above from of a US funded anti-smoker – a man who is fighting against shisha, and has no sense of how aptly he describes the worst excesses of his own movement.)
This can't help the place in Finsbury Park. It is unfortunate for them that they broke the law – but without effective opposition, not hard to see how such things happen. Authorities here are powerful, and nothing stops them attacking people whose dislike of the law leads them to defy it.


Smoking Hot said...

They're still there in Edgeware Rd, you just have to know where. Smoking has gone underground ... it's not gone away and won't no matter how hard they try.

Belinda said...

Edgeware Road is not much use to me in London! The ban has made something private that used to be public, and people like me (who don't smoke) can get left off the radar, when we didn't before the ban was in place. I'm glad for the people that can still meet their friends and smoke but not glad that the thing has to be covert.

Very un-glad actually.

Belinda said...

by the way I posted before I had finished the piece by accident!

Smoking Hot said...

l understand your feelings completely but until there's a definite stand somewhere, smoking will go underground.

l'm fortunate in being able to go to my MC Club where no smokerphobes turn-up ... council or otherwise.

By a definite stand l mean in an activist way. lt needs somewhere to get round the current regs and go public. For this it will mean a freeholder as tenants are hog-tied by the breweries. Theres atleast a couple of ways of getting round the ban .. it just takes someone with balls to do it.

We are totally activist but in the cross-border shopping area but l can tell you this ... it's amazing what happens when you do stand up to them. The myths disappear.

Perhaps we should buy a pub? Theres loads of them going cheap!

Dick Puddlecote said...

"The smoking of shisha pipes is under threat the world over, because the WHO has declared shisha smoking to be a passive smoking risk"

Despite there being no health studies on SHS from shisha and no sidestream smoke due to its nature.

But then, who in the public-funded health community gives a shit? Not their money at risk, is it?

Anonymous said...

"Theres atleast a couple of ways of getting round the ban .. it just takes someone with balls to do it."

Whatever happened to "theatre nights" at the pubs? That is where the play was all about smoking and the actors all sat around smoking on stage while acting out their ad-libed bits.

Shisha should claim Sharia Law - honestly. For that much, they'd probably get an exemption, not based on the right reasons of course, but it would force the establishment to make a choice as they can't have it both ways - non-smoking yet Sharia friendly.

Anonymous said...

Smoking Hot, I've got some ideas and I'm prepared to donate £1,000. I'm sure others are. Ask for comments on your website.

Anonymous said...

Kamauachi has debunked WHO and the myth of ETS smoke from shisha