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Hempstead councilman proposes hookah bar restrictions

The bill limiting hookah lounges to industrial zones is aimed at protecting public health, officials said.

Hookah lounges in the Town of Hempstead would be restricted to light manufacturing and industrial zones, under legislation that town councilman Dennis Dunne Sr. is proposing Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Credit: Newsday / Yeong-Ung Yang)

Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr. on Wednesday proposed legislation that would restrict hookah lounges in the town’s unincorporated areas to light manufacturing and industrial zones.

Dunne is to call to schedule a future public hearing during the Town Board’s meeting on Dec. 12. His bill would only apply to hookah lounges that would open in the future or are amid opening — not lounges that are already open or any establishments in villages. It would also restrict the sale of other substances sold in vape shops in unincorporated areas, such as Juul e-cigarettes and kratom.

“People say the town council’s supposed to only worry about potholes and garbage and recycling and maybe the parks,” Dunne said Wednesday at a news conference outside the Levittown Memorial Education Center. “But you know what, our kids and our families are being affected by these substances.”

Several Long Island municipalities, including Brookhaven and North Hempstead towns, and Glen Cove, have adopted restrictions on hookah lounges.

Dunne was joined at the news conference by Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, chief deputy county clerk and newly elected Nassau legislator John Ferretti Jr. and members of the Levittown school board, PTA and district, as well as officials from the Levittown Community Action Coalition.

“I think this is a great idea because we’re worried about the health and safety of our children,” Goosby said.

D’Esposito, an NYPD detective currently on leave, said hookah and other tobacco products can be “gateway” drugs to more dangerous substances.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said of Dunne’s bill.

Town spokesman Mike Deery said there is at least one hookah lounge “that we’re aware of” in the town’s unincorporated areas but there could be others “that are not complying with permits.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hookah use can have the same health effects — including several types of cancer — as smoking. The agency also said hookah use is increasing among youth and college students.

“We have to do something,” Dunne said.

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