Because the town does not currently have local tobacco control regulations in place, the proposal would fall under existing state health laws.
Town Health Director Tom Carbone will rule on the application administratively based on the state regulations, he said.
Carbone said Monday night there is little reason on his end to reject the application, as state laws allow it.
“I haven’t acted on it yet. Ultimately, I don’t have any public health law that says I can’t issue this and shouldn’t issue. I’ll have to issue,” he told the board. “There are some other things they have to straighten out, but ultimately, this could happen tomorrow.”
While state law generally prohibits smoking in businesses, hookah lounges are a clear exception because of their business model, according to Carbone.
“In these types of lounges, I believe when they’re allowed, it’s because the majority of their receipts are tobacco related,” he said. “(Business) is not from alcohol. It’s not from food. It’s not from T-shirts.”
As far as Andover’s position on tobacco regulations, “it has been on the back burner, because we’ve had other things going on,” Carbone said. “From a public health regulatory standpoint, right now we’re not regulating beyond what the state has. The question will be, does the board want to?”
The Board of Health in the next few months could adopt regulations that would suddenly say, “This isn’t going to happen anymore,” Carbone said.
He also outlined other options, including a sunset clause, which would allow such businesses to operate for a certain period of time until they are banned altogether, or a provision that would put a halt to any new proposals once a regulation was adopted.
Boston, for example, has a sunset law in place that in 2018 will outlaw the half-dozen or so hookah lounges currently operating in the city, he said.