On October 16, 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law three measures targeting non-tobacco shisha. According to one of the co-sponsors, these laws were passed in “an effort to bust the misperception that non-tobacco shisha is healthier than cigarettes when, in fact, they are not.”

The laws are Intro. 139-C, extending the requirements of New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act to non-tobacco shisha; Intro. 1075-A, requiring hookah bars to post signage warning of the dangers of using hookahs; and Intro. 1076-A, raising the minimum age for purchasing non-tobacco shisha from eighteen to twenty-one. Of interest, the City Council supported Intro. 139-C and Intro. 1075-A with various legislative findings.

Among other things, § 1 of Intro. 139-C stated that

“[t]he Council finds that hookah smoking, regardless of whether the shisha contains tobacco, poses significant health risks to smokers and nonsmokers, including employees at establishments that serve hookah. All hookah smoking involves burning charcoal, which is used to heat the shisha. The charcoal alone creates health hazards for smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke by emitting carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter, and various toxicants. In addition, non-tobacco shisha has been shown to emit harmful substances in equal or greater quantities as tobacco-containing shisha, . . . .”

The legislation even went as far as specifically targeting charcoal—in regulating its use, storage, preparation, handling, and disposal.

Among the stated findings in § 1 of Intro. 1075-A, the City Council repeated the assertion that “hookah smoking, regardless of whether the shisha contains tobacco, poses significant health risks to smokers and nonsmokers, including employees at establishments that serve hookah.”

Notably, the Mayor signed a package of stringent anti-tobacco measures into law only a few months ago—on August 28, 2017. In connection with the signing, he stated that “big tobacco is public enemy number-one.” Of course, the regulatory burdens associated with August’s anti-tobacco legislation, as well as the recent legislation targeting non-tobacco shisha, may be expected to weigh heaviest on small businesses.