New York hookah bars are facing stricter guidelines


Adriana Chivil

It is a given that one of the few common rites of passage for NYC college freshmen is going to Hookah bars, and taking a few puffs while someone else in the group unanimously records and posts it on social media.  On Wednesday, September 27, the City of New York passed a bill, which succeeded in an overwhelming 37-5 vote, will now prohibits new hookah bars from opening and extends hookah smoke to the city’s indoor smoking ban. The bill only allows existing bars to remain open only if their permit is viable and the minimum of 50% their revenue are from hookah sales; To be able to enter the bars will require evidence that the potential consumer are 21 years of age or above.  It also requires all bars to have signs delineating the side effects of smoking. Hookah businesses are now also required to have a special license.

Bill sponsor and government official Vincent Gentile explained hookah can just be as dangerous as cigarettes; smoking hookah for 40 minutes may contain the same amount of puffs as smoking 120 cigarettes.  Extended sessions also indicate that the smokers may inhale a significant amount of more smoke than they do with cigarettes. “Any way you cut it, hookah smoke is no joke,” Gentile mentioned, “ Except for those sites grandfathered in, indoor smoking in other places will no longer be acceptable.”  Clearly the politician is big on public lung health, as Gentile has pushed for this move for years.

“Today we once and for all ‘clear the air’ on the dangers of hookah smoking,” Gentile dangerously punned after the passage of the law.

For public health, this could help prohibit precious smoke entering and exhaling through young adult lungs, although economically it could hurt longtime owners whose target consumers are 18-21 year old college students. Blowing the smoke in an aesthetic manner at a hookah bar is a common Friday or Saturday evening pastime for young people in New York City. Hookah bars and restaurants were allowed to serve hookah since 2003, after the city banned smoking, as long as the pipes didn’t contain tobacco.

University students had a different approach to the expulsion of new hookah bars, as approaches to consumers could be treated differently; banning 18 year olds from entering hookah bars and restaurants proves inefficiency and drives away a major economic pool of consumers.  For example, at concerts, to cancel out who can and cannot buy alcohol is a Sharpie cross on the back of one’s hand, an obvious indication of no access to alcohol served, which is another approach of services towards hookah.

University undergraduate student Samantha Zheng commented, “I feel like hookah bars should have this rule where they would write an X on the patron’s hand to differentiate between both abled parties; the 18 and 21 year olds both get to enjoy themselves while the owner makes a profit; it benefits both sides and enables safe smoking and drinking habits.”

For the sake of public health, a bill had to be passed to protect the lungs of the citizens of New York City.  Many are left wondering whether it is worth it to have a third of the economic pool banned from entering the premises of a hard working business.  Bill sponsor Vincent Gentile had been quaking in his loafers for this ban to enforce a marginal benefit for the sake of the people.  Although some University students halfheartedly agree and some do not, the bill will affect all just the same.


Photo courtesy of Flickr