By Jano Tantongco
A Huntington councilman wants to limit where hookah and vape lounges can set up in town, an effort to protect children, he said.
The proposal, made by Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, would prevent such lounges from operating within 1,500 feet of parks, playgrounds, religious institutions and schools, or in any building with apartments.
Cuthbertson’s proposal would also limit lounges to one-per-lot, and would only allow them to be operate within C-5 and C-6 commercial districts, or I-1 industrial districts.
“This legislation was inspired by the need to balance the interests between the right of free enterprise and the protection of children,” Cuthbertson said in a statement emailed Wednesday.
Currently, there are no town code restrictions against, or licenses required, for such lounges to be built or operate, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.
Under Cuthbertson’s proposal, hookah and vape lounges are defined as “any facility or location whose business operation, and its principal use, include the on-site indoor smoking of electronic cigarettes, vape pens, vapors, e-liquids, other legal marijuana derivatives or other substances.”
Lounges that currently exist within the township, would be grandfathered in, unaffected by the proposal, according to Cuthbertson.
Records indicate that there is only one active hookah lounge in town, the Moonlight Hookah Lounge on 332 East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station. It is not located near any institution that would have prohibited it under the proposed legislation.
Imran K., manager of lounge, who declined to give his last name, said Cuthbertson’s proposal makes sense from a public safety standpoint.
“The law will be good,” he said, adding “hookah has nicotine, [but] it’s less than compared to cigarettes.”
Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) is also on board with Cuthbertson’s proposal. He called it a “great piece of legislation” in a Wednesday interview. Spencer added that he wants to make a similar proposal at the county level.
“We know there’s no redeeming health benefits, that they are dangerous because of the chemicals that they use,” Spencer said. “I think they’re toxic to kids.”
He said that it was not just about secondhand smoke exposure, but also about regulating the proximity to young people who may find these lounges attractive.
“They’re at a chemical disadvantage, and they’re prone to lifelong addiction,” he said. “One in five kids who smoke or start to use these products before 21 will die… of smoke-related illness or complications.”
The Huntington Town Board will host a public hearing on the proposal during its Aug. 16 meeting at 2 p.m.