Govt opposes hookah bars in city restaurants

Expressing concern over the rise in the number of hookah bars in the city, the Delhi government on Monday told the Delhi High Court that these pose a health hazard for youngsters.

Appearing for the Delhi government, advocate Najmi Waziri told the bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw that "state government has expressed its concern over hookah bars where youngsters are going, and, which may adversely affect their health."

He said in most such bars or lounges, there is no separate smoking zone. The government told the court that "MCD officials should go and see whether restaurants are following the terms of the licence given to them."

The court was hearing a plea filed by NGO World Lung Foundation, South Asia, through its president G R Khatri, seeking "effective" implementation of anti-smoking laws in public places and preventing restaurants from running hookah bars.

MCD supported the plea and informed the court that the agency is mulling action against restaurants running illegal hookah bars.

"Licences are issued to restaurants not to run hookah bars, but only to serve food. If they (restaurants) are running hookah bars, it is not permissible," MCD lawyer said.

After hearing the arguments, the court observed that "if there is any violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act by the restaurants, the civic agencies need to taken action against them."

Appearing for the National Restaurant Association of India, advocate Lalit Bhasin opposed the banning of hookah bars saying the restaurants are not in breach of COTPA Act, and "punitive action has to be taken against any person or party which is in breach of the Act."

The counsel told the court that "as per COTPA provisions and Smoke Free Rules, tobacco hookahs are permitted only in specific designated exclusive areas where tobacco products, like cigarettes and tobacco hookahs, can be used. So, there is no breach of law if tobacco hookahs are allowed in the areas specified for this purpose."

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