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Hempstead Town restricts where hookah lounges can operate

The law allows the lounges to open only in light manufacturing and industrial zones. Officials say the aim is to discourage young adults from hookah use.

Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne speaks at Levittown

Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne speaks at Levittown Memorial Education Center on Dec. 6, 2017, about restricting the location of hookah lounges. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The Hempstead Town Board unanimously passed a law that blocks hookah lounges from opening in residential and commercial districts.

The measure proposed by Town Board member Dennis Dunne Sr. restricts the opening of new hookah lounges to light manufacturing and industrial zones within the unincorporated regions of the town. The board approved the law at a Jan. 9 vote.

Dunne said he proposed the new legislation to address concerns that hookah lounges attract young adults and could be a gateway to cigarette smoking and the use of other drugs. He said drug paraphernalia have been discovered nearby a hookah lounge that had been operating in Levittown.

“Smoking hookahs for one hour is comparable to smoking five packs of cigarettes a day,” Dunne said. “We don’t want our kids subjected to the smoke.”

The new law will not apply to existing hookah lounges, but could jeopardize any hookah lounges in the process of opening or opening in the future, town officials said. Town officials said the law was modeled after other communities that have restricted hookah lounges. North Hempstead, Brookhaven and Glen Cove have similar laws.

Nassau County Legis. John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) said he has worked with the town to close a hookah lounge that had opened on Hempstead Turnpike without building permits.

“People don’t realize that smoking hookahs are just as harmful as smoking cigarettes,” Ferretti said. “The whole business model is to create a social environment. It’s so important to nip this in the bud.”

Corinne Alba, of the Levittown YES Community Counseling Center, said the earlier teens begin using hookahs, e-cigarettes or vapes, the likelihood of nicotine addiction increases.

“Any legislation that helps prevent early addiction and keeps paraphernalia out of the youth’s hands is a step in the right direction,” Alba said.

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