EDMONTON -- An Edmonton city council committee is reopening the debate on shisha lounges.

The Community and Public Services Committee asked administration to report back on bylaw amendments to allow shisha use inside businesses.

Requested amendments include mandatory signage that identifies smoking areas, physical separation of smoking areas, no food or drink service within smoking areas and no minors in smoking areas.

All of these measures are intended to help eliminate second-hand smoke impacts on staff.

Mahlet Belete, a manager at One XVII Lounge, spoke to the committee Wednesday, urging council to consider the cultural role Shisha plays for many Edmontonians.

"Shisha has been consumed over a hundred years around the world, and has a significant role in social gathering," Belete said.

"In many western cultures, the social mechanism most utilized is alcohol, but that is not the case with mine and so many other cultures."

Belete said the ban of shisha lounges has forced people who would normally go to a lounge to gathering in homes with improper ventilation, and often with children present, instead of in a well-ventilated lounge with other consenting adults who choose to be exposed to the smoke.

She went on to say that shisha lounges bring the community together and are often owned by immigrants who are trying to support their families. They also employ Edmontonians.

"I urge you to reconsider your stance on a complete Shisha ban, and instead work with the community to find middle ground that will address the health concerns, while allow the community to continue practicing our culture," said Belete.

One councillor said he wouldn't support lifting the shisha lounge ban.

"I don't think there's a way to distinguish between this and smoking, which also has some cultural implications for some groups, particularly the Indigenous community. Tobacco is just as important culturally to them. Cannabis is just as important to the Rastafarian community," said Councillor Ben Henderson.

"I think the same argument could be made, I think we're being naïve if we think this won't open up that whole question again."

Last summer, city council voted to ban shisha smoking inside restaurants and lounges – putting it under the same anti-smoking bylaw that was passed in the late 2000s.