08/26/2012 07:21 EDT | Updated 10/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Victoria Bylaw Loophole Opens Door For Hookah Pipes

A loophole in Victoria's anti-smoking bylaw has opened the door for businesses to allow indoor smoking with hookahs, or water pipes.

Medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick says the bylaw only bans tobacco smoke, but it doesn't prohibit people from smoking other products like dried fruit or vegetables.

Three new establishments in Victoria allow hookah pipes to be smoked indoors, and Stanwick says several municipalities have asked him to look into the issue.

"We're trying to determine, whether it's vegetable matter or tobacco, is this generating an indoor air quality issue?" he said.

Stanwick is gathering research information on the health effects of smoking dried fruit or vegetables in a hookah.

"We're in the process of doing so," he said. "We're working with some scientists in Edmonton to see exactly how big a risk is this before we come forward and say, 'Here's what the concerns are.'"

Stanwick said he suspects there are risks involved, but he doesn't plan to recommend changes to the region's bylaw until a legal challenge to Vancouver's ban on smoking in public is decided.

The City of Ottawa added hookahs to its smoking ban last month.

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