Toronto | Ontario

Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 545, Licensing (Pertaining to Waterpipe)

The City of Toronto started exploring options to address the use of waterpipes inside businesses, up to and including the possibility of a ban, in the fall of 2012. The following steps were taken before approval of changes to the Municipal Code on 3 November 2015:

  1. On 19 October 2012, Toronto City staff was asked to study and come back to the Licensing Committee with recommendations on how to regulate or even ban the use of waterpipes inside businesses, e.g., “hookah bars”. There were then around 80 waterpipe establishments in the city.
  2. On 30 September 2013, the Board of Health asked Toronto Public Health staff to meet with the Youth Health Action Network (YHAN) to discuss smoke pipe usage of youth when considering the upcoming report to the Board.
  3. On 14 March 2014, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health filed a report on the Health Risks of Indoor Waterpipe Smoking. The report reviews evidence on the use and health effects of waterpipe smoking in indoor public places, including recent evidence on indoor air quality at waterpipe cafes in Toronto.
  4. On 24 March 2014, the Board of Health agreed to do the following:

A. Request the Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the City Solicitor and community stakeholders including Toronto Universities and Colleges, to report to the Board of Health by the end of 2014 on measures, including prohibition, to address the health risks of indoor waterpipe smoking in Toronto commercial establishments and connected patios thereof;

B. Request the Medical Officer of Health to include in the requested report international best practices on waterpipe legislation and an economic impact analysis on businesses;

C. Urge the Federal Minister of Health to amend the Tobacco Act and regulations to explicitly include waterpipe tobacco products; and

D. Forward the report (10 March 2014) from the Medical Officer of Health, for information, to the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Public Health Ontario, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, the four Toronto School Boards, and Ontario Universities and Colleges.

  1. A 14 May 2015 report by the Toronto Medical Officer of Health recommended to the Toronto Board of Health that, effective 1 October 2015, City Council prohibit the use of hookah in establishments that are licensed or required to be licensed under Municipal Code Chapter 545, Licensing.
  2. The waterpipe debate was brought to City Council on 3 November 2015. Despite having come forward without a recommendation from the Licensing and Standards Committee because discussion at the committee level ended in a tie vote, the proposed changes to the Municipal Code were approved. As of 1 April 2016, hookah use is prohibited in establishments that are licensed or required to be licensed under Toronto’s Municipal Code Chapter 545, Licensing.

On 7 October 2016, an Ontario Superior Court judge upheld Toronto’s waterpipe bylaw as legally valid, which had been challenged earlier in the year. The judge wrote that he found it “unfortunate” that the city opted to prohibit rather than regulate hookah use, but said ruling on good or bad policy was not a part of his job.


Products Included

Other Weeds and Substances, Waterpipes


Hookah means a device, whether called a hookah or any other name, designed to heat or burn a substance to produce smoke intended to be inhaled by a user or users.

Use, with respect to hookah, includes any of the following: i. Inhaling smoke from a hookah;

ii. Exhaling smoke from a hookah; iii. Holding an activated hookah.

Places Smoking Prohibited

Waterpipes (indoors)

Policy Analysis

Although smaller communities have already prohibited the use of waterpipes indoors, it was extremely important for a city with the number of hookah bars as Toronto has to do so. This is clearly a leading edge bylaw that has the power to influence other municipalities and even provinces.


On 15 March 2018, Toronto Public Health issued its first Closing Order, to Layalina Lounge, for violation of the waterpipe bylaw. The Closing Order requires the business to be closed to any use and allows for police to bar entry to the premises for the duration of the closure as outlined in the City of Toronto Act.

TPH has taken a progressive enforcement approach that included public education to raise awareness of the health effects of hookah and the new bylaw requirements. Active enforcement of the bylaw began in June 2017 and outreach was conducted to all known businesses to make them aware of the bylaw and all establishments were inspected.

The City of Toronto will continue to investigate and take enforcement action against business operators of hookah lounges for continued non-compliance. As other operators are convicted of non-compliance, they may also be subject to Closing Orders.