Shisha in Westminster

Smoking shisha can harm people's health and, at commercial premises, can lead to a range of amenity and safety issues.

The council wants to help people make informed choices about shisha and the health risks it poses, while also making sure that businesses offering shisha do it safely, legally and with minimal nuisance and disturbance to others. We’re working with partners, including central government, other councils, the NHS, Public Health England, local schools and shisha businesses, and all of Westminster’s residential and business communities, to find ways to achieve this balance.

We're continuing to develop our work in this field, but our overall approach is outlined in Reducing the Harm of Shisha: Towards a Strategy for Westminster (PDF, 16MB). This was launched at our Shisha Symposium event in February 2017, hosted by the council in partnership with the Tri-Borough Smokefree Alliance.

1. Shisha and health

There are some misconceptions about the health impacts of shisha as people often thinking it’s less damaging than other types of smoking, and not addictive. This isn't the case and we want people to understand the true risks of shisha smoking so that they can make informed choices.

Some points to note are:

  • shisha tobacco carries the same risks as other tobacco-containing products, like cigarettes
  • shisha tobacco can cause lung cancer, Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease, oral and throat cancers and various respiratory diseases
  • there’s also growing evidence linking shisha tobacco to a number of other cancers, heart disease and infertility
  • there’s a significant risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • it's addictive and it contains nicotine, like other tobacco
  • the vast majority of shisha sold in this country is tobacco-based, but even non-tobacco ‘herbal shisha’ carries the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • using shisha pipes that haven't been cleaned well, and sharing pipes with others can spread infections, including herpes (which causes cold sores) and tuberculosis
  • it doesn’t just harm smokers – there are risk for those inhaling second hand smoke too which is particularly important when shisha is smoked at home and children are present, and for staff working at shisha smoking premises

2. Operating a shisha business

There are a number of regulations to operate a shisha business legally in Westminster.

Businesses must comply with legislation to offer shisha safely, and limit the disturbance and nuisance to others. The council can support you in this, and will take enforcement action where necessary to ensure compliance.

Guidance for businesses about shisha is under development. In the meantime, teams within the council who oversee the relevant area of business regulation can advise, including:

  • licensing (outdoor tables and chairs, late night refreshment if applicable, etc)
  • environmental health (nuisance from noise, smoke and smells)
  • health and safety (maintenance of equipment, use of hot coals, fire safety etc)
  • planning enforcement (building use, outdoor structures such as decking, awnings etc)
  • trading standards (tobacco duties, sale of age restricted goods, labelling & advertising, etc)


Last updated: 21 April 2017