The sacred hookah bar—one of the few remaining establishments where New Yorkers can legally smoke indoors—would become even more of a rarity in NYC if City Council Member Vincent Gentile has his way. Gentile, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst, will introduce a bill this week that would ban new hookah bars starting in 2012. Existing hookah bars would be exempt, but the Daily News reports that they would would have to register with the Health Department, and would be barred from expanding or changing locations.
Gentile insists hookah smoke is just as bad as cigarette smoke, and tells the News, "There are some people going there thinking that as long as it's not tobacco, that it's not harmful. It's been established that it is harmful." But hookah smokers reacted scornfully to Gentile's proposed prohibition. "It’s ridiculous," Mamua Jeme, a hookah smoker at El Khayam Cafe in Astoria, tells Thaindian News. "Cigarettes are more of a vice. Hookah is a tradition." And another hookah enthusiast in Astoria points out that while it may be harmful, "everyone I know knows what they’re doing."