HALF of Bolton’s shisha cafes are breaking the law by allowing people to smoke indoors.

Bolton Council has now launched a crackdown on the bars to ensure they comply with anti-smoking laws.

Shisa cafes are not exempt from the legislation, which was brought in five years ago and bans people from smoking indoors.

Smoking is permitted in an outside area or shelter — but only if 50 per cent of it is open to the air.

And three of the cafes — Arabian Lounge and Hollywood Hookah in Derby Street and Arabian Mist in Gilnow Lane — are “non-compliant”

with regulations.

Visitors to the bars smoke shisha, which is flavoured tobacco, through a hookah, a special pipe. The smoke is passed through water before it is inhaled.

Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for the environment, said: “Using shisha pipes in enclosed public premises is just as illegal as smoking tobacco.

“Our enforcement team have been working hard over recent years to ensure that premises conform with the smoking regulations and to close down those premises that continue to be non-compliant.”

As part of the clampdown, council inspectors will be issuing on-the-spot £50 fines for anyone under the age of 18 caught smoking in Bolton’s shisha bars.

The legal age for people to have tobacco in any form is 18.

And, during a council and police operation, some young people at shisha cafes were taken home to their parents by safeguarding staff.

A report to the local authority says because shisha bars can be an attractive place for young people to “hang out”, for some premises it “presents the potential for sexual exploitation”, although a council spokeswoman stressed there had been no reported cases of such exploitation.

Cllr Peel added: “We are particularly concerned about the presence of young people in some premises.

“We are working with Children’s Services Safeguarding Team to remove children from potentially exploitative situations and to ensure the message goes out to parents that shisha bars should not be “hang out” places for children.“ The Bolton News visited each of the non-compliant cafes. Arabian Lounge is above a store and looked like a trendy bar, while Arabian Mist is in a structure called “the bunker” and looked like an “air raid shelter” with skylight windows.

Both had a university- age clientele, but there was no signs of smoking at the time.

Hollywood Hookah seemed more like a cafe than a bar. Saj Mohamed, manager, claimed the cafe was under new management and was not yet fully open. He said: “I’m aware that in the past with the previous bar there’s been some misunderstanding with the council and we’ve had to change a few things.

“We want to work with the council to make sure things are done right.”

The owners of Arabian Lounge and Arabian Mist could not be reached for comment.

Carlos Als, owner of Taboosh Shisha bar in Bank Street — which is fully compliant with council regulations — said: “We opened in 2007 and we’ve always been legal. The people we get here are between 20 and 45 and it’s multi-cultural.

It has become more popular and we sell food as well as shisha.”

According to research, smoking shisha is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

Shisha bars are becoming increasingly popular.

Traders in Manchester’s Curry Mile say the number of restaurants has halved in the last three years and they have been replaced with shisha bars.