Permitting of Non-Tobacco Hookah Establishments (Amendment to Chapters 10 and 13 of Title 24 of the RCNY)

Proposed Rules: Closed to Comments

Comment By: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Download Copy of Proposed Rule (.pdf): 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Proposed Rule



Smoking is a leading cause of preventable premature death in New York City, increasing the risks of lung cancer, heart disease, and many other health hazards. To counter this threat, in 1988 the City enacted the Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA), which was amended in 2002 to restrict tobacco smoking in various indoor and outdoor public places. Despite the substantial progress in reducing both environmental smoke exposure and smoking, hookah smoking has been increasing, especially among the City’s youth.

Hookah or water pipe smoking involves heating “shisha”, which is typically composed of a wad of tobacco and/or other flavored or unflavored leafy substances, over burning charcoal, to create smoke that travels through a pipe immersed in cooling water, and that is inhaled by the smoker through a mouthpiece.  Regardless of whether the shisha contains tobacco, hookah smoking poses significant health risks to smokers and nonsmokers, including employees at establishments that serve hookah. Hookah smoking produces emissions from burning charcoal. The charcoal creates health hazards for smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke by emitting carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter, and various toxicants. In addition, smoking non-tobacco shisha has been shown to emit harmful substances equal to or greater than quantities emitted by smoking tobacco-containing shisha, including carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, fine particulate matter, tar, and volatile aldehydes.

While risks associated with non-tobacco hookah smoking are established, air quality in the City’s hookah establishments is compromised further by evidence that many of them have been found to be serving shisha that contains tobacco. Tobacco-containing shisha has been shown to emit phenols, nicotine, and NNAL, a tobacco-specific nitrosamine. Therefore, unsuspecting patrons of hookah establishments may be smoking tobacco unwittingly, in addition to the harmful substances emitted by charcoal and shisha. To address these concerns, Local Law 187 of 2017 amended the SFAA to ban the smoking of non-tobacco shisha except at existing establishments that require a permit from the Department.  Local Law 190 of 2017 also requires establishments where non-tobacco shisha may be smoked to post signage developed by the Department that warns of its risks. These proposed amendments implement these laws, which prohibit smoking of tobacco-containing shisha at any existing non-tobacco hookah smoking establishment and only allow the smoking of non-tobacco shisha at establishments permitted by the department.

Furthermore, given the health risks posed by non-tobacco smoking, Local Law 191 increases the minimum age for legal sales to 21 years of age for non-tobacco smoking products, including shisha that does not contain tobacco, pipes, water pipes, rolling papers, and herbal cigarettes. 

Proposed Amendments

These proposed amendments implement Local Laws 187 and 190 and set forth requirements for obtaining a permit to operate a non-tobacco hookah establishment in the City. The rules address the significant health hazards posed by hookah smoking by:

(1) protecting the integrity of the City’s Smoke-Free Air Act, which was intended to provide all New Yorkers with access to clean air in public places and workplaces by discouraging smoking and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke for nonsmokers;

(2) continuing the City’s efforts to de-normalize smoking and reduce tobacco dependence; and

(3) restricting access to establishments where non-tobacco hookah smoking can take place to persons over 21 years of age.

These proposed amendments also implement Local Law 191 and set forth the required language for a sign regarding the minimum legal sales age of 21 for the sale of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, non-tobacco smoking products, and smoking paraphernalia that must be posted in a place of business where such products are sold.

Statutory Authority

The Department’s authority for these rules is found in section 1043 of the New York City Charter and sections 17-513 and 17-706 of the New York City Administrative Code.


Public Hearing

Proposal to amend Chapter 10 of Title 24 (“Smoke-Free Air Act”) to establish requirements for a business to obtain a permit to operate a non-tobacco hookah establishment in the City.

Public Hearing Date: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 2:00pm

Svetlana Burdeynik at (347) 396-6078 or

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Gotham Center
42-09 28th Street 14th Floor, Room 14-31
Queens, NY 11101