Shisha Lounges: Business Guidance

The Smoke Free Team undertakes regular visits to legal and illegal shisha bars. This is to ensure that the owners of shisha bars are compliant with the Health Act 2006.

We work closely with Trading Standard Officers, to ensure the tobacco used is legal and therefore safe. We visit illegal shisha bars with the Metropolitan Police. During these visits we may take the shisha pipes and tobacco as evidence which is then used in the Magistrates court to secure a conviction.

Being in control, or allowing people to smoke in an enclosed space, such as an illegal shisha bar, is an offence. You could be fined and ordered to cover the court costs of the council if found guilty. 

Business Guidance

If your business supplies shisha in water pipes to customers, you need to do so legally. Following this guide will enable you to do this, but failing to comply may result in prosecution or having your pipes and shisha tobacco seized and your customers being fined.

The council and its partners will take action to ensure businesses keep to the law. It is important that users of shisha are made aware of the health issues. A misleading but commonly held belief is that smoking through a waterpipe ‘purifies’ the smoke.

The law will affect your business in a number of ways. Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help you understand the law.

Where can customers smoke?

Waterpipes can be smoked in open air when there is no roof or ceiling above the smoker. They can also be smoked in some circumstances where there is a roof or ceiling, but only if at least 50 per cent of the walls of the structure are permanently open. Any opening that can be closed - for example by a door, window or shutter - is counted as closed. We can provide more detailed advice.

As with smoking a cigarette the smoking of shisha/water pipe is not permitted within substantially and fully enclosed public spaces or workplaces because of the Smoke Free laws. These smoking laws apply to waterpipes whether or not the shisha product being smoked contains tobacco or not. So unless your business has access to a legal smoking area you will not be able to supply shisha in waterpipes.

Smoking shelters

If you construct a shelter for shisha users, it may require planning permission. Please contact the council's Planning department for advice prior to construction.

How is the law enforced in Tower Hamlets?

The Smoke Free Team undertake regular visits to legal and illegal shisha bars with the Police and Trading Standards Officers. During these visits we may take the shisha pipes and tobacco as evidence which is then used in the Magistrates court to secure a conviction.

Being in control, or allowing people to smoke in an enclosed space such as an illegal shisha bar is an offence and you could be fined money and ordered to cover the costs of the council  if found guilty. 

What are the offences?

  • Failure to display a no smoking sign - up to £1,000 if prosecuted and convicted by a court or £200 fixed penalty notice on whoever manages or occupies the premises.
  • Smoking in a no smoking place - up to £200 if prosecuted and convicted or a penalty notice of £50 on the person smoking.
  • Failing to prevent smoking in a Smoke Free place - up to £2,500 maximum fine on whoever manages or occupies the premises if prosecuted and convicted.

What can I sell?

You can only sell tobacco products that have been legally imported into the UK - anything imported illegally will be seized by Trading Standards, HMRC or the Police. The vast majority of shisha products containing tobacco are not imported legally and will not have had the required duty paid on it. 

What warnings do I have to display?

Any premises selling tobacco products has to display large notices stating: "It is illegal to supply tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18." This notice should be displayed in areas where customers can receive tobacco. We can supply copies of this notice upon request.

The waterpipes themselves should be labelled with the same written and picture warnings that are on cigarette packs if they are supplied with a tobacco product in them.

Who can I sell to?

No tobacco product can legally be supplied to anyone under 18 years old. Given that waterpipes are normally shared, you must check the ages of the whole group and any friends who subsequently join them. It may be sensible to allow only over 18s into the premises.

How can I ensure the safety of employees and customers?

Supplying shisha will involve additional risks which you should assess and control. Risk assessments must be documented where you employ five or more staff. Risks include infectious diseases, burning charcoal and spillages. Staff should be trained to control the risks and respond to incidents.

You should also take the additional risks into account when completing the Fire Risk Assessment and Emergency Plan for the premises. You can get more guidance on these requirements from the London Fire Brigade Tower Hamlets Fire Safety team on 020 8555 1200. Fire exits should be unlocked and clearly signposted.

To minimise the transference of infection, waterpipe mouthpieces and hoses should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected between users. Disposable mouthpieces are recommended. If your staff light the pipes they should use their own personal mouthpiece and then put a clean one onto the pipe.

Approval of a shisha bar/lounge

A shelter must comply with the 50 per cent wall rule. The premises must also have planning permission, a valid fire safety certificate and keep noise, light pollution and exposure to second hand smoke or smoke infiltration into Smoke Free areas to a minimum. A shisha premises will be allowed to operate if the Smoke Free team is satisfied that it complies with all the requirements.

What will happen if I don’t follow this advice?

The council’s shisha policy is clear - illegal shisha businesses will not be tolerated in Tower Hamlets. Non-compliant businesses can expect regular visits from the council and their partners until we are satisfied the place is compliant with the Health Act 2006

It is highly likely that the owners of non-compliant businesses will be prosecuted and if you are licensed to sell alcohol, your licence may also be at risk.

Support for Tower Hamlets residents who want to quit smoking shisha

Anyone living or working in Tower Hamlets can access the network of trained smoking cessation advisers for support or treatment. You can access these services for free at your local pharmacy, GP practice and many local community organisations.

For details of your nearest advisor based at the council, call the local health hotline on 020 7364 5000.

Where can I get further advice?

The council would much rather achieve compliance through advice than by taking enforcement action. If you have any questions or need further advice, please contact us on the details below.

Contact us

Smoke Free
Consumer and Business Regulations Service

Tower Hamlets Town Hall
160 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BJ

Tel: 020 7364 5000 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri)