PRESS RELEASE

NHCA at LA City Hall
NHCA at LA City Hall
HOOKAH COMMUNITY FIGHTS TO KEEP THE CUTURAL TRADITION OF HOOKAH ALIVE IN THE CITY OF L.A.

On June 16, 2021, the L.A. City Council voted to exempt existing LA hookah lounges for on and off-site sales from a proposed flavored tobacco ban.  The proposed flavored tobacco ban was introduced in 2019 by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to address the rising tide of teen vaping which according to the Center for Disease Control reached 27.5% of high school students in 2019.
 
The L.A. City Council voted to include an exemption to hookah thanks to the efforts of the member of the National Community Hookah Association (NHCA).  NHCA is comprised of passionate and diverse minority leaders and was established to educate lawmakers and the public about the cultural significance of hookah and its importance to immigrant and minority owned small businesses. 

The broad flavored tobacco ban did not just include vape, it also included hookah tobacco because all hookah tobacco is flavored.  Hookahs are the centerpiece of cultural social gatherings and often seen at community celebratory events.  Hookah is a 1,000 year cultural tradition in Armenian, Arab, Indian, Persian, Turkish and other minority groups.  Many of these people have immigrated to the United States and call Los Angeles their home.  In their pursuit of the American dream, many of these people have started businesses to share their traditions and service the growing minority communities in Los Angeles.  These hard working immigrants have poured their heart and soul into their businesses, which supports their family and extended family. 

Several L.A.City council members who had a large constituency that practiced hookah, championed a hookah exemption that mirrored SB793.  These leaders that respect and celebrate the diversity of L.A. include Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Kevin de Leon and John Lee.  They support L.A.’s minority communities and their small businesses that were already struggling due to closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other L.A. City Councilmembers that wanted to prevent the unintended consequences of the broad flavored tobacco ban included Gil Cedillo, Curren Price, Paul Koretz, Joe Buscaino, and Bob Bloomingfeld, all of whom voted to address youth access and usage of flavored tobacco product, while also protecting hookah.  The L.A.City flavored tobacco ban proposal passed which exempted existing legally operating smoker’s lounges which will be specially permitted by the Tobacco Enforcement Program.  These Smoker’s Lounges will be limited to 21 years of age or older and the sale of flavored shisha tobacco products will be permissible for on-site or off-site consumption.  These permits are non-transferablebut a new permit may be applied for according to the author, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, however many are waiting on the final ordinance language from the L.A. City Attorney’s office to confirm. 

NHCA was thankful for the limited hookah exemption and to the councilmembers that stood up to protect the cultural tradition of hookah, however it feels that it fell short of the 21 and over lounge AND retail hookah exemption of SB793, which is on referendum and expected to be voted on at the November 2022 general election.  As a result, many 21 and over retail establishments owned by minority business owners, many of which have never been cited for selling to minors, will be forced to close down.  Many of these businesses have several years on their leases that are personally guaranteed by the owners, meaning many will be faced with bankruptcy and potentially many hardships to come.
 
For the National Hookah Community Association, which is a non-profit 501(c)(6), their work is far from over.  They are on a mission to educate lawmakers about the rich cultural tradition of hookah and bring minority communities together and give them a voice. "Hookah is a misunderstood custom that is very different from vape.  We are not advocating for tobacco, we are merely trying to protect our right to practice our cultural traditions", stated Arnie Abramyan, National Hookah Community Association President.

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT


Dear NHCA Member,
The NHCA has been working diligently to protect and preserve the rich cultural tradition of Hookah and have several noteworthy accomplishments and developments to report. I will first provide an update on new legislation on a federal, state and local level, then introduce our exciting new advocacy portal along with current campaigns, then touch on the upcoming Hookah Expo Worldwide (“HEW”) tradeshow in Las Vegas this coming October 8th and 9th, then finally invite our members to take action in the fight to save Hookah.
On the federal level, the Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2021 has been reintroduced in both the House and Senate. The bill would increase taxes for many tobacco products for the first time since 2009. Hookah is heavily targeted by this legislation and would see a 1,650% federal tax increase. Such an increase would not only threaten the existence of the entire Hookah community but is also a disproportionately large tax increase on minority businesses and consumers. NHCA is working with a lobbying firm to oppose this tax increase. We ask all members of the Hookah community to go to Oppose Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2021 to send a quick email to Congress opposing this exorbitant tax increase on Hookah.
This past year numerous states introduced legislation to ban Hookah and other flavored tobacco products, including CT, MD, NY, IL, HI, IN, OR, WA, VT, NM, TX, VA, D.C. NHCA engaged lobbyists in many of these states to advocate for Hookah and educate lawmakers about the 1,000-year cultural tradition of Hookah.
We are pleased to report that none of the proposed flavor bans passed except Washington D.C., which passed but exempted Hookah for onsite consumption and retail for onsite consumption. It is still unclear if the D.C. flavor ban will go into effect due to conditional provisions written into the bill. Although Hookah was saved in all these states, it is expected that these same bills will be reintroduced next year. With the support of its members, NHCA will be ready to fight to save Hookah across the United States.
On a local level, NHCA has recently engaged on several proposed city flavored tobacco bans including Pasadena, CA, La Verne, CA, and Denver, CO. NHCA attended and testified at proceedings for all city events and is proud to report that Pasadena flavor ban was tabled until new councilmembers could get more information on SB793 and Hookah. La Verne passed a flavored tobacco ban and exempted existing Hookah retailers. And we had a positive showing and representation at the Denver flavored tobacco ban stakeholder meeting. NHCA set up a save Hookah campaign and invited the Denver Hookah community to contact their representative to protect and preserve our right to practice our cultural tradition of Hookah and to date, over 500 emails have been sent to city councilmembers. Check it out here at Save Hookah in Denver.
In other cities such as Los Angeles, we are awaiting the final ordinance language from the LA City Attorney’s office. San Jose is set for September 28, 2021 where we anticipate a Hookah exemption that mirrors SB793.
NHCA has developed an advocacy site, www.saveHookah.com, to further our efforts to protect and preserve Hookah. Currently, we have a save Hookah campaign in Denver, San Jose and the federal Durbin Bill. This site will be instrumental as an educational home page for our multiple save Hookah campaigns. This is one of the many improvements NHCA has made to address the growing tide of legislation regarding Hookah. If you haven’t already done so, please go to the site and send letters to all of the cities considering Hookah bans.
As HookahExpo Worldwide (HEW) approaches this October 8th and 9th, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada, we invite the Hookah community to come to the NHCA booth #403 to learn more about recent legislative matters and how NHCA is working to further elevate and protect the Hookah industry.
The NHCA invites all Hookah manufacturers, distributors, retailers, lounges and enthusiasts to join us monthly for an NHCA update and discussion on the second Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m., the next meeting being October 13th at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Please use the following link to access the Zoom meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86835273178or scan the QR code below
Lastly, we ask our members to spread the word about NHCA and encourage people to join at www.nationalHookah.com, scan the QR below. Follow us on Facebook and WhatsApp (#saveHookah) to get the latest news and updates. Together we can save Hookah.

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