New York City’s war on tobacco is about to set its sights on the next victim: Hookah Bars.
A new measure to be proposed this week by City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) will try to extend the city’s indoor smoking ban to include all non-cigarette smoking, including shisha smoke, which is used in all hookahs.
While existing hookah bars would not be forced to close, new indoor ones would not be allowed to open, and the ones that are already open would be forced to register with the department of health. They would also not be able to expand or change their locations.
“People think that just because it doesn’t have the smell associated with cigarettes, hookah isn’t dangerous,” said Dena Libner, the Director of Communications for Councilman Gentile. “Most people don’t realize how harmful it really is.”
Gentile’s staff also said that they have received complaints from residents who live above hookah bars, saying that the smoke permeates through the building, and that those residents fear certain health concerns.
“We’re just looking for some consistency in the city’s tobacco policies,” said Libner. “Both tobacco and shisha have cancer causing agents, and the distinction in the law between them is misleading.”
However, some owners of hookah bars said that the legislation will hinder them even if it won’t completely shut them down.
"I can't knock down the wall and double my restaurant? I can't open up another hookah bar under the same name?" Edwardo Romano, manager of Katra on the Lower East Side, told the Daily News. "I'm not here to kill anybody. They come in and they ask for a hookah."
Gentile’s camp says that they are open to debate on the bill.
“We just think that this is a good jumping off point to present a way for people to understand the health effects of hookah smoke,” said Libner. “We want to look at the future of this city and decide what activities we want to encourage and what we want to educate people on.”