Do not support use of tobacco: Hookah bars to NGT

New Delhi: Restaurants and bars in the city, which permit hookah smoking, have told the National Green Tribunal that they do not support the use of tobacco of any kind within their premises.

The restaurants and bars, in pursuance to the notices issued to them, informed a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that they were not using any tobacco material in hookah.

The green panel took exception over non-appearance of 13 restaurants and bars in the city before it despite notices being served to them.

“We issue bailable warrants against the proprietors/ partners of the respondents (who failed to appear) for their production on the next date of hearing,” the bench said.

The tribunal asked the authorities to strictly regulate these restaurants and bars and warned that it would order their closure in case of any environmental pollution.

The matter will now be taken up on December 12.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a BJP MLA from Rajouri Garden, seeking immediate ban on hookah bars in the national capital.

The NGT had on October 9 issued notices and sought replies of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the city government, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and various hookah bar owners.

Sirsa had contended that the ambient air quality standards in public places such as restaurants and bars were dangerously higher than the prescribed norms.

Referring to the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008, the plea said these rules were being openly flouted by various restaurants and hookah bars in Delhi wherein hookah, with tobacco products, was being permitted to be smoked in open spaces without designation of any part of the premises as a smoking area.

“We direct the MoEF to issue directions under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 against such persons or entities who have been polluting indoor ambient air in restaurants and bars and such other public places in Delhi by selling hookah or permitting hookah smoking in its premises,” the plea had said.

Sirsa had earlier alleged that hookah bars were “ruining” the youth of Delhi by turning them into “drug addicts”.

“Despite launch of a campaign in the country to contain use of tobacco and ban hookah bars, most hookah bars in Delhi are running on restaurant licences illegally and selling products that are harmful for the youth,” he had earlier said.