The smoke is out.
Following an undercover investigation, the city’s Health Department announced it found 13 hookah bars in the city, including four in Queens, selling a pipe mix that included tobacco for their patrons to smoke on premises, violating the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act.
At hookah bars patrons smoke a substance called shisha, composed of herbs, molasses and, in some cases, tobacco. Serving shisha with tobacco violates the city’s 2002 law that prohibits smoking tobacco in a workplace, including restaurants and bars.
“These 13 hookah bars are knowingly flouting the law by serving tobacco-based shisha,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. “Tobacco smoke is dangerous for the health of the smoker, patrons and those who work in these establishments.”
On Nov. 14, Health Department inspectors, working together with New York University students, went to the 13 bars and “discretely” took samples of the shisha being served. After being sent to be tested, it was found that all the shisha samples tested positive for nicotine.
The bars in Queens included two in Astoria: Fayrooz Hookah Lounge and Bar on 28-08 Steinway St. and Melody Lounge on 25-95 Steinway St.; and two in Fresh Meadows, just blocks from St. John’s University: Layla Hookah Lounge on 181-34 Union Turnpike and Cloud 9 on 179-22 Union Turnpike.
The Health Department is now beginning to take measures to revoke the permits of all 13 bars and restaurants.
“The American Heart Association is concerned about the evidence of illegal tobacco sales in hookah bars,” said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the Mount Sinai Roosevelt and St. Luke’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program & Lipid Clinic and a member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee. “At a time when more adults are smoking at higher rates and there are fewer services available for smokers who want to quit, we must protect New Yorkers from tobacco addiction in all settings.”