Environmental health chiefs at Preston Council have sent out posters to local doctors and dental surgeries and pharmacies, highlighting the health risks of the practice.
They are also working with the owners of shisha cafes to ensure they comply with the laws on smoking in enclosed public spaces, brought in five years ago this month. The same legislation applies to shisha smoking as to cigarettes.
Shisha involves smoking flavoured tobacco through a water pipe. Eirian Molloy, environmental health manager at the council, said many people are not aware of the health risks, including holidaymakers who may be tempted to try shisha on summer travels to the Middle East or north Africa.
Research shows an hour spent smoking a shisha pipe can be the equivalent of puffing 100 to 200 cigarettes, and users are at risk of the same diseases faced by cigarette smokers.
Eirain said: “The concern we have is people are not really aware of the health risks associated with shisha.
“There is a misconception as it goes through water, anything harmful is filtered out. That’s not the case.
“Some people think because it’s fruit flavoured, it’s not harmful, but that’s not true either.
“It has tobacco and nicotine in and is addictive.
“Because it is a social activity, the length of time spent smoking is potentially longer than nipping out of the pub for a quick cigarette.
“A lot of people also go on holiday and think (shisha) is just part of the experience, but don’t realise it has tobacco in it.”
Three shisha cafes have been approved in Preston by the council so far. One owner, Taahir Mohammed Amir, was fined £1,000 by Preston magistrates last year for breaching smoke-free legislation at SL Sheesha in Manchester Road.
Eirain says health bosses are worried about young people getting involved shisha smoking, a concern echoed by Coun Pauline Brown at the last full council meeting.
Awareness posters have been sent out to colleges and universities.
Eirain said: “Operators have got to ensure they are not selling tobacco to youngsters.”