New York City Passes Hookah Legislation

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Contributed by Luis Torres, MPH, of New York City Treats Tobacco

On September 27th, 2017 the New York City Council continued its strong push towards protecting the health of all New Yorkers by voting to pass three new bills addressing Shisha/Hookah that will now be passed on for Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign into law. The bills are sponsored by Council Members Vincent Gentile and Ydanis Rodriguez.

“I am proud to vote today with my colleagues in support of bills 1075-A, 1076-A, and 139-C to regulate the use of hookah, particularly by our youth. Marketing for tobacco and non-tobacco shisha products target our young people, disproportionately those in communities of color. We have made so much progress on curbing the use of cigarettes and now we are facing a similar challenge with hookah. The fact is that 45 minutes of smoking hookah is comparable to smoking 120 cigarettes. Its prevalent use is putting the health of our city and youth at risk. Today, we are taking an important step to address this issue,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

139-C: Prohibits the opening of new hookah bars by eliminating the non-tobacco shisha exemption in the Smoke Free Air Act. It will allow existing hookah bars that earn more than half of their revenue from hookah-related sales to continue to operate by creating a new permitting system operated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, although these establishments would not be permitted to expand, and would have their permit revoked if they were found to be in violation of the law prohibiting the sale of tobacco. Retailer licensing or permitting can be used to restrict the number or density of all types of tobacco outlets.

1075-C: Will add a signage requirement to hookah bars permitted to operate under the permitting scheme created by Introduction 139-C. It would require that hookah bars post a prominent sign at their entrance, and in any area in which smoking occurs, warning of the health risks associated with smoking. Learn more about POS Health Warnings.

1076-C: Will set the minimum age for the purchase of non-tobacco shisha, rolling papers, and pipes to 21, bringing them in line with tobacco products and e-cigarettes. With the passage of this bill, all smoking products would have a minimum purchase age of 21. Learn more about Tobacco 21 policies.

According to the CDC, the use of hookah has the potential for many negative health effects including:

  • The charcoal used to heat the tobacco can raise health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Water pipe smoking delivers nicotine—the same highly addictive drug found in other tobacco products.
  • The tobacco in hookahs is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal, and the smoke is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke.
    • An hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs.
    • The amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 milliliters (ml), compared with 500–600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.

NYC Treats Tobacco is based in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. The goal of the program is to implement tobacco use treatment systems changes and policy in medical and behavioral health care organizations and reduce the burden of tobacco-related disease.