Mayor signs into law city’s first-ever regulation on hookah

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, October 16 signed into law the first-ever legal regulation on hookah in all of New York City.

The bill – which adds non-tobacco hookah to the Smoke Free Air Act of 2002, which banned indoor smoking of cigarettes and cigars – governs the cleanliness of hookah paraphernalia while also prohibiting entry to hookah establishments for those under 21 as a means to de-normalize smoking citywide. It greatly affects neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, where there is a large number of hookah bars and lounges along both of the nabe’s main commercial strips — many of them having seen their fair share of pushback.

Though the bill grandfathers in already-established 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 the installation of ventilation systems and safe-measure sanitation procedures. Those found to mix tobacco into their shisha or serve patrons under 21 will lose their permits. Furthermore, new hookah bars will not be allowed to open, and existing bars will not be allowed to move or expand.

“Any way you cut it, hookah smoke is no joke,” Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a sponsor of the bill, said. “It is not a safe smoking alternative and restricting minors makes the decision to smoke up to those of adult age.”

Under a different bill also passed by the Council and signed into law by the mayor, signage of hookah smoke’s health effects must also be posted.

“This legislation has been on a seven-year journey to get a vote and I am proud that it was passed by a wide margin in the City Council and is now signed into law today,” Gentile concluded.

The new bill will go into effect in six months.

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