Report to/Rapport au :


Ottawa Board of Health

Conseil de santé d’Ottawa


Monday June 20, 2011/le lundi 20 juin 2011


Submitted by/Soumis par :

Dr./Dr Isra Levy,

Medical Officer of Health/Médecin chef en santé publique


Contact Person/Personne-ressource :

Sherry Nigro, Manager/Gestionnaire

 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention/Promotion de la santé et prévention des maladies

Ottawa Public Health/Santé publique Ottawa

613-580-2424, ext /poste 28971,



City Wide / À l’échelle de la ville

ACS2011-OPH- HPDP-0002















That the Board of Health for the City of Ottawa Health Unit receive this report for information.




Que le Conseil de santé de la circonscription sanitaire de la ville d’Ottawa prenne connaissance du présent rapport à titre d’information.




The water-pipe, also known as hookah, shisha and narghile, is a device used to smoke tobacco products and herbal products that are specially made with molasses and flavouring.  Water-pipe smoking is increasing in North America, especially among the young adult population.  A recent study conducted by the Journal of Paediatrics indicated that 23% of young adults aged 18-24 used a water-pipe within the last year (1).


Water-pipe tobacco smoking is linked to lung cancer and other respiratory and heart diseases and infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and influenza.  Water-pipe tobacco smokers are also exposed to cancer causing chemicals and hazardous gases such as carbon monoxide (2).




Enforcement limitations with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA)


Presently, the Smoke-Free Ottawa By-law (2001) and the SFOA (2006), prohibits the smoking of tobacco inside a public place and workplace.  This would include smoking tobacco products inside water-pipe establishments.   In addition, the SFOA prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 19.  Furthermore, the SFOA also regulates the way tobacco is packaged and sold. 


There are limitations with the SFOA legislation as it relates to water-pipe establishments..  For instance, many owners/managers of water-pipe establishments claim that they are smoking and selling an herbal product that does not contain tobacco.  Furthermore, Tobacco Enforcement Officers that are designated to enforce the SFOA do not have the authority to search and seize product from the establishment they are inspecting.  This additional barrier makes it difficult for Officers to determine if the product is in compliance with the SFOA. 


Current developments


There are currently 17 known water-pipe  smoking establishments in Ottawa and many reports of underground establishments offering tobacco product.  Many of these establishments are promoted at local festivals, cafés, post-secondary campuses and on the multi-cultural radio station.


In an effort to overcome the limitations of the SFOA legislation, the City’s Tobacco Enforcement Officers have undertaken proactive joint enforcement inspections with the Provincial Ministry of Revenue (MoR). Tobacco inspectors from the MoR have the authority to search and seize product and test the product to determine if it contains tobacco.


 In 2010, 8 joint inspections on water-pipe establishments were conducted.  During one of these inspections, the MoR confiscated products and tested at the RCMP laboratory.  The results of this analysis, confirmed it was tobacco product.   Charges were laid (improperly packaged tobacco and selling tobacco without the required signs bearing health warnings) under the Tobacco Tax Act.


In May 2011, Tobacco Enforcement Officers conducted 4 joint inspections with MoR Tobacco Inspectors. In total, four water-pipe establishments received eight provincial offence notices (PON) including selling tobacco without a required license and supplying tobacco to persons who appears under 25.  Over 30,000 grams of contraband tobacco water-pipe product was also seized from two establishments.  These establishments received fines totalling over $30,000 in tax penalties. In addition, a large bin of mixed product was seized from another establishment.  


Next steps


More joint inspections with the MoR have been scheduled.  Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is also exploring the involvement of Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) to conduct inspections at the water-pipe smoking establishments to determine compliance under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) related to investigation of health hazards and infectious disease transmission.  Lastly, OPH will be launching two education campaigns this fall targeting young adults in post-secondary institutions and the traditional user group about the health effects of water-pipe smoking as research has shown that both groups underestimate the health risks. 


OPH staff and MoR inspectors will continue to ensure that all inspections, search and seizure and testing operations are conducted (i) in strict compliance with all applicable legislation and City By-laws, and (ii) in consultation with City of Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services and Legal Services.




City of Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services were consulted in the development of this report.




There are no financial implications associated with this report.



There are no legal implications to implementing the recommendation in this report.




Ottawa Public Health will use this report to further engage community partners, policy-makers and Ottawa residents in developing enforcement strategies with water-pipe smoking establishments.




1.      Dugas E, Tremblay M,  Low NCP, Cournoyer D, O'Loughlin J. Water-Pipe Smoking Among North-American Youths.  Journal of Paediatrics 2010 June 1; 125( 6):  pp. 1184 -1189


2.      American Lung Association. Tobacco Policy Trend Alert An Emerging Deadly Trend: Water-pipe Tobacco Use. American Lung Association, February 2007