City probing hookah health risk

The public health department plans to test air quality in hookah bars this year to see if there is a health risk.

Restaurant owner Charbel Karakouzian finds the idea amusing.

“If they’re talking about air quality, go stand (at the) Rideau Centre where we have the city buses killing people from the smoke coming out of their pipelines, and come and sit in the restaurant when somebody’s smoking shisha,” said Karakouzian.

“It’s nothing. There’s no nicotine, no tar, there’s nothing whatsoever.”

His establishment, the Garlic Corner at the corner of York St. and Dalhousie St., offers herbal hookah and Karakouzian says he’s never been caught using tobacco in its place.

Other hookah places have, and the testing is all part of the mission for smoke-free air.

Ottawa Public Health has teamed up with by-law services and the ministry of revenue to enforce the city’s 20 or so known hookah bars.

“We’ve been quite firm and aggressive in the last year in doing inspections and spot checks,” said medical officer of health Dr. Isra Levy.

Last summer, four bars were fined more than $30,000 for illegally selling tobacco and supplying it to customers who appeared to be under 25 years old.

A couple of places have since closed shop.

“I’m sorry to learn that they’ve shut down but I’m not sorry to learn that we’ve got a 20% reduction in what we know were establishments that were serving tobacco, frankly illegally, to young people and youth,” said Levy.


  • 27 blitzes done by tobacco enforcement officers and ministry of finance inspectors in May, July and October
  • 20 businesses issued 35 notices (including selling tobacco without a licence and supplying tobacco to people appearing to be under 25 years old)
  • More than 30 kg of contraband tobacco water-pipe products seized
  • $75,000 in fines issued
  • 75 fire code violations reported
  • Two bars have closed, one has cancelled “hookah night,” and one has stopped selling shisha

— Source: Ottawa Public Health

One Comment

  1. Emmy Lopez

    Although, Charbel Karakouzian claims that his hookah bar is safe, I suggest he would get his facts straight first. Some people think that tobacco- free hookah is safe and a great alternative to smoking tobacco but they are wrong. Yes these types of hookah contain natural herbs but they still function through charcoal. It releases chemicals such as, carbon monoxide (CO) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These toxins could affect people more than regular smoking.

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