Denying a plea that a ban be imposed on sheesha cafes, the Lahore High Court on Wednesday noted that sheesha fell within the definition of ‘smoking’ in the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that since there is already a ban on smoking, there was no need to issue an order. He directed the home secretary and the district coordination officer to ensure that the ordinance is enforced. The judge was hearing two petitions relating to sheesha smoking at cafes.
One of the petitions was filed by the Society of Alternative Media and Research and had sought a “complete ban” on sheesha. The other, filed by a group of sheesha cafe owners, had challenged the government’s “coercive measures” and a crackdown against their businesses. When proceedings started, Advocate Abdullah – the counsel for the Society of Alternative Media and Research – submitted that the ordinance prohibiting smoking in public places applied to cafes and restaurants providing sheesha. A representative of the City District Government Lahore agreed with the lawyer. At the last hearing, Justice Bandial had directed both the petitioner’s counsel and the law officer to tell the court whether the prohibition of smoking ordinance extended to sheesha cafes and restaurants.
The counsel for sheesha cafe owners submitted that they have designated smoking areas. To this, Advocate Abdullah said that under the ordinance, smoking could not be allowed even in designated areas. The ban on smoking in public places also applies to court premises and the office of the advocate general, said the counsel for cafe owners, why is it being applied only to cafes? The cafes owners had earlier submitted that sheesha was not harmful to health. They said that it hadn’t been categorised as a ‘prohibited product’ until recently.
The Society of Alternative Media and Research had pleaded that the use of sheesha was causing health problems in young people.
What constitutes smoking?
“[S]moking” means smoking of tobacco in any form whether in the form of cigarette, cigar or otherwise with the aid of a pipe, wrapper or any other instrument.
Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.