Hookahs are less dangerous than cigarettes

Mocha caf on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that hookahs are far less dangerous than cigarettes as they contain less quantity of nicotine and are not easily available.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Girish Godbole was hearing petitions filed by Berry’s Hotel, which runs Mocha, challenging the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s July 1, 2011, circular banning the sale of tobacco items in eating joints.

A couple smoking hookah

A couple smoking hookah

The circular was issued on a direction given by the court to incorporate the provisions of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) in licences issued to all eating joints selling tobacco items, including hookahs. On July 13, 2011, the court upheld the circular.

The direction was passed in a public interest litigation filed by the NGO Crusade Against Tobacco, alleging that hookah parlours are selling tobacco products to minors and violating other rules under COTPA.

Mocha and several other hookah parlours in the city challenged the circular stating that BMC has no powers to issue directions under COTPA, which is a Central Act, and urged the court to recall its July 13, 2011, order.

Counsel Milind Sathe, appearing for Spice & Flavours, questioned the power of the municipal commissioner to impose conditions in relation to tobacco.

“As long as I adhere to the (Cigarette) Rules, the commissioner has no authority whatsoever,” he added. Sathe said the rules also do not provide restriction for the smoking area to be used only for smoking and no other service.

Mocha’s advocate Veena Thadani argued that tobacco is not inherently dangerous. She said her clients sent 200 cigarettes, 200 beedis and two kilograms of molasses-based fruit flavours containing tobacco for a smoke analyis report to the Central Tobacco Research Institute. In its June 13, 2008, report, the institute said smoke emitted from tobacco molasses’ samples contained only 0.23% nicotine as against 1.55 miligram per cigarette and 2.05 milligram per beedi.

“Hookah is less dangerous than cigarette,” said Thadani. She said compared to hookahs, cigarettes are easily accessible to children below 18 years. Justice Godbole riposted, “Then this is a good ground for the Parliament to remove it from the schedule of the Act. We cannot do it.” BMC will issue its reply on Thursday.

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