New legislation imposes health and safety regulations on hookah establishments
Gentile: ‘Hookah Smoke is No Joke’
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile helped pass a bill that’s been seven years in the making. The new legislation imposes more stringent health and safety regulations that hookah establishments will have to adhere to.
As with the case of cigarette smoking being prohibited indoors under the current law, hookah smoke will be added to that prohibition. The new law will not take effect, however, until Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed off on it.
According to a statement from Gentile, smoking hookah has been scientifically shown to be just as dangerous as smoking 100 cigarettes in one session due to the carcinogens produced and the length of time people use hookah pipes versus smoking one cigarette.
Data has shown that smoking hookah is a health risk that poses a danger not only to those who smoke, but also to those who live around or work in hookah bars.
Community 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who was also instrumental in seeing this bill pass, said that she was aware of 14 hookah bars, lounges or restaurants that offer hookahs within Community Board 10.
The bars are small businesses independently owned and operated.
Beckmann said that because many of the buildings in Bay Ridge were constructed at the turn of the century, there have been many complaints over the years from residential tenants above the lounges and businesses adjoining the establishments regarding secondhand smoke and odors permeating from the hookah bars.
Community Board 10 first began working on concerns raised by parents, merchants and residents following what became a sudden increase in hookah lounges opening within Community District 10 in 2010. At the time, local attorney Judith Grimaldi served as chair of the Senior Issues, Housing Health and Welfare Committee.
Community complaints covered three areas of concern including health impacts from secondhand smoke, adolescent usage and inadequate ventilation.
The members of Community Board 10 voted to reach out to Gentile to advocate for legislation to regulate establishments that serve hookah.
“With this law we are adding non-tobacco hookah smoking to the Smoke Free Air Act,” said Gentile. “No longer will minors be allowed to smoke in these lounges, and no longer will communicable diseases be spread from unsterile hookah smoking paraphernalia. Moreover, those who have been subject to secondhand smoke in and around hookah bars will be pleased to learn that new ventilation requirements in this bill address this issue.”
While the bill grandfathers in hookah lounges where 50 percent or more of their revenue comes from the sale of non-tobacco smoking products, those businesses will now have to meet basic health and safety requirements, including installing ventilation systems and sanitizing the pipes and mouth pieces used.
New fire safety code measures will also be imposed and the new permit required for these businesses will be revoked if the lounge is found to lace tobacco into the shisha. Under a different bill also passed by the Council, signage of the dangerous health effects of hookah smoke must also be posted.
The new bill prohibits entry to those under 21 as a way to protect youngsters from smoking in public places and to underscore NYC’s effort to denormalize smoking.
“Any way you cut it, hookah smoke is no joke. It is not a safe smoking alternative and restricting minors makes the decision to smoke up to those of adult age,” said Gentile. “New York took a step toward stamping out hookah bars Wednesday with a bill that bans new ones.”
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