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I recently posted how there were concerns that the established restaurants of the “Curry Mile” in Rusholme were being squeezed out by a rise in shisha bars, many of which were apparently failing to comply with the smoking ban. Now the Manchester Evening News has carried out a special investigation and found that – Shock! Horror! – all fifteen of the bars visited were allowing smoking indoors.
Shabir Mughal, executive member of the Rusholme Traders Association, said: “These places each make up to £25,000 a week, so to them a £3,000 fine is pocket money, it’s just loose change.”
...Since 2002, 28 shisha bars have opened in Wilmslow Road alone. Mr Mughal said: “Most of the shisha bars let people smoke indoors.” Earlier this month, Manchester council launched a campaign against illegal shisha smoking in Rusholme’s bars.
Habibi Cafe, which was fined more than £4,000 just weeks ago for breaching the smoking ban, was full of people smoking indoors when we visited.
Coun Nigel Murphy, Manchester council’s executive member for the environment said: “We are aware that there are shisha cafes in Manchester whose owners regularly allow their customers to openly flout the law. We will continue to crack down on these offences and these people should realise they are breaking the law.
“Our present campaign is highlighting the health risks of smoking shisha, which many people are unaware of, but as well as this we will be enforcing the legislation which means that anyone caught smoking indoors will be liable for a £50 fine – while owners and managers who allow this to happen face much larger fines.”
...One of the cafes had a shisha pipe design on the door next to a non-smoking sign.
The owner was fined more than £2,700 earlier this year for breaching the smoking ban – yet last weekend the cafe was full of illegal shisha smokers.
The legal process to prosecute a business owner for breaching the smoking ban is lengthy, and the council faces difficulties if the ownership changes hands.
At a time of cutbacks and austerity, you often get the impression that councils place a greater priority on bullying their residents in ways like enforcing the smoking ban than on actually providing services to them. I reckon if it became widely known that, because of shortage of funds, any particular council was in effect not policing the ban, it would be dead in the water in that area within a few weeks. I’ve always tended to think that, in the end, it will disappear with a whimper rather than a bang. The best way to render a law ineffective is simply to ignore it en masse.
As described, for example, here, Greece has in theory a similar smoking ban to the UK, but in practice it is pretty much entirely ignored, and the Greek authorities are of course much further down the road to penury than we are, so are probably happy just to turn a blind eye.