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Maharashtra framing stringent rules for hookah parlours


MUMBAI: The BJP-led Maharashtra government will soon frame guidelines to regulate hookah parlours in the state.

The Supreme Court had in 2014 struck down a ban imposed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on hookah parlours in places such as restaurants and hotels where smoking is otherwise legally permitted.The state, however, is now aiming to put in place a stringent regulatory mechanism which would also help in blocking the mushrooming of such parlours.

Officials from the home department said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has asked them to prepare a framework of rules which will be mandatory for hookah parlours to follow in order to function.

“We are looking at setting a minimum age for customers to go to a hookah parlour. The distance that must exist between hookah parlours and educational institutes, temples and hospitals too will be fixed. We are also seeking suggestions from other departments on proposing a new licensing structure for these parlours,” said a home department official.

Currently, there are no norms in the matter, and even school-going children are seen frequenting these parlours in some places. Some parlours also run under the garb of a cafe or an eatery.

There are also no specific permissions required at present to run a hookah parlour: the permissions required to start a restaurant or a cafe are the ones that apply . And there is no regulatory mechanism, not only in Maharashtra but in any state in the country. “We are looking at introducing a licence specifically for running hookah parlours. The fee for it will be steep to avoid mushrooming of such parlours,” said another official.

A senior official said the state government will constitute a committee to look into the issue. It will include representatives of many de partments like health, urban development, environment and law and judiciary as the issue is complex and has large-scale implications for health and environment. “There are guidelines on the use of tobacco in public places which the health department will be able to look at in depth and help us with the norms. The smoke originating from the parlours and the carbon discharge that is left inside the hookah pot too are environmental concerns,” said the official.

The BMC had in 2011 barred the use of tobacco in the form of cigarattes, bidis or even hookah in all restaurants and hotels and even on licensed premises. Ahmedabad and Chennai too had imposed a ban. The apex court quashed the ban in 2014, paving the way for the parlours to stay open.

The apex court pointed out that the definition of smoking under the Cigarettes Act included smoking tobacco in any form with the help of a pipe, wrapper, or any other instrument, which would include a hookah and the expression, “no other service shall be allowed”, referred to services other than hookahs. So, the use of hookahs could be permitted in smoking zones, said a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman, allowing a bunch of appeals against the judgments of the Bombay, Gujarat and Madras high courts.

Source: Times of India

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