New law curbs teen hookah use

July 21, 2011 Heather Chin
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Happy New Year, teens!

As of January 1, 2012, New Yorkers below the age of 18 will not beable to purchase hookahs, water pipes or shisha, the fruit-flavoredtobacco mixture smoked in a hookah, at stores in New YorkState.

The new law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 15, expandsupon existing state law that regulates the sale of tobacco andherbal cigarettes to minors. Until now, the law – the state’sAdolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA) – did not includehookahs and their accessories.

The use of hookahs – a tall tube used for inhaling smoke fromboiled water and shisha herbs – is common in Middle Easterncountries and has gained popularity among youth in the UnitedStates as a seemingly safe, and until now unregulated, alternativeto cigarettes. Their use has become especially popular in southernBrooklyn in recent years, due in part to the large Middle Easterncommunities in the area.

We have made great strides in educating young people about thedangers of cigarettes, said Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasnyfollowing the passage of the bill he sponsored. However, in ourcommunity, hookah and water pipes are a dangerous and unfortunatelyavailable alternative means for smoking tobacco. This bill willhelp block access for minors.

State Senator Marty Golden also celebrated the bill’s passage afterhaving sponsored it in the Senate.

It is a fact that smoking can seriously damage one’s body andhealth [and] as hookah bars become more popular amongst teenagers,parents have raised significant concerns, he said. I believe thislegislation properly addresses those apprehensions.

The parental concerns in question were made last year by members ofBay Ridge’s Arabic-speaking community to Community Board 10; theboard subsequently voted overwhelmingly to request that Golden andother state elected officials include hookah and shisha in thestate ATUPA law.

There was a mother whose son became violently ill after smokingand drinking outside a local establishment, and the complaints kindof went up in the last several months and last summer, explainedCB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

Given the growing trend across all cultural groups, there are realhealth concerns, she said. I think this legislation really doesmake the under-18 rule equitable amongst all types of smoking. It’sa good move for the health of our young people.

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