The Hempstead Town Board this week unanimously passed legislation proposed by Councilman Dennis Dunne that would restrict the operation of hookah lounges in the Town of Hempstead to light manufacturing and industrial zones.
“I am so grateful that the Town Board was able to come together on this very important issue and vote unanimously to pass this legislation,” said Councilman Dunne. “It is evident that the smoking of hookah tobacco can be harmful, particularly for young people, and may serve as a gateway to illegal drug use.”
“The restriction of hookah lounges to prevent their placement near homes, schools, community centers and shopping areas is a common sense, quality of life decision,” noted Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen. “I fully support any laws that can help protect our children from starting habits that could negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking hookah tobacco can lead to cancer of the mouth, lungs, stomach and esophagus, among other diseases. In addition, the charcoal used to heat the tobacco produces high levels of carcinogens, carbon monoxide and other chemicals, making them just as toxic as cigarettes. What’s more, many young people believe that hookah smoking is less harmful than cigarettes. In fact, the long-term sessions involved with hookah smoking can result in even more chemicals being inhaled than with the average cigarette.
At the hearing several community groups, including YES Community Counseling Center in Levittown and the East Meadow SMART Coalition spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.
“As Director of the East Meadow SMART Coalition it is disheartening to hear the statistics of use among middle school and high school students,” said Donna LaScala, a supporter who spoke at the meeting. “This behavior poses a health risk. If, as the CDSC reports, approximately 2% of middle school and 5% of high school students visited a hookah lounge in the last 30 days, that would mean that 143 kids from Clarke Middle/High School, Woodland and East Meadow High School combined visited one of these establishments. I fully support Councilman Dunne's legislation restricting these lounges.”
The legislation will apply to hookah lounges that open in the future or are currently in the process of opening. Those that are lawfully operating currently will be permitted as a nonconforming use.
“Restricting hookah lounges to light manufacturing and industrial zones is in truly in the best interest of all residents of the Town of Hempstead,” concluded Councilman Dunne. "This is a great first step in stopping the rising challenge of destructive decisions in our community!"