A new state law banning minors from hookah bars where people are allowed to smoke flavored tobacco is getting mixed reaction in Astoria, Queens, where hookah a popular practice. Borough reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Steinway Street between 25th and 28th Avenue in Astoria is Queens' so-called "Hookah Strip," where people go to smoke "shisha," or flavored tobacco, through a water pipe known as hookah.
The industry is not well-regulated and the businesses are exempt from the state's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, so the owners often create their own rules when it comes to minors. Many places do not allow them inside, but some do.
That is about to change under a new state law banning minors from these mostly Middle Eastern establishments that have become popular with other Americans.
"That seems kind of lame. It seems like it's going to happen anyway," said one local.
Many minors have taken to smoking shisha at home as well, but come January 1, the sale of hookahs or water pipes and shisha to anyone under 18 is forbidden.
Those who smoke shisha say it is mostly herbal with a small tobacco component,
"The hookah is different than the cigarettes. It's lighter," said one smoker.
State Senator Martin Golden, who introduced the bill, said enough research has not been done.
The Brooklyn Republican fought for the law after receiving complaints about minors frequenting hookah bars in his district.
"I would be fearful of my own child going in and having some of this," Golden said.
Several business owners in Astoria who spoke with NY1 did not know anything about the new law. Once they learned about it, one said, "The state is making a big deal out of nothing," but the others welcomed it.
Golden said the Department of Consumer Affairs will enforce the law. Hookah bar and cafe owners could receive points on their business license and fines of up to $1,000 if they do not comply.
Any minor caught smoking in the bars will receive a summons and their parents will be notified.