NYACK, N.Y. - Water pipes, rolling papers and vaporizers. Inhale how you please, just don't tell them what you're smoking.
Stocked with an assortment of devices typically used to get stoned, smoke shops are selling products you wouldn't find the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel hawking.
Owners of these businesses — known more popularly as head shops — stay on the right side of the law by stressing their paraphernalia is for tobacco use only.
But there's little doubt what comes to mind when walking past one of these showrooms.
"(You) think of smoking marijuana, smoking weed, herb — all that. Ganja, whatever you call it," said Tracie McLee as she fastened her daughter into a car seat outside Liquid GlassShop in Nyack, N.Y. "I've never been in there but that's why you go ... to buy stuff to smoke it."
A steady stream of baby boomers and 20-somethings spent a recent afternoon browsing the illuminated display cases of this business nestled between a pizza parlor and clothing boutique.
The Liquid GlassShop's owner declined to comment about the business.
For the uninitiated, shops like this sell pipes — made of wood, acrylic, metal or glass — that are available in different shapes and sizes. Hand-held bowls can resemble cartoon characters and household items, carrying price tags under $100. Larger items, such as water pipes, can run upwards of $300.
The availability of these devices has increased, according to industry observers, as states and the federal government adopt a softer stance on marijuana. Since 1996, two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized recreational marijuana, and 20 states and the District of Columbia have approved it for medical use.
A recent national survey found some 19 million Americans used pot regularly in 2012 — an uptick of about 4 million people since 2007. And a Gallup poll released in October found a clear majority of Americans — 58% — say marijuana should be legalized.
While the drug remains outlawed in New York, there are several businesses in the region catering to this growing population of smokers as state lawmakers mull the legalization of medical marijuana.
Of the 1,400 licensed tobacco sellers in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, eight stores in the region were classified as head shops by websites covering the industry.
"As long as it's safe, the money goes where the business is," said Kevin Jones of the nonprofit National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "There's that openness now. Instead of driving to one head shop that's miles away, you can go to a beverage center in town and pick up a glass bowl."
There is oversight of the tobacco sold at these shops as owners navigate a maze of local, state and federal laws governing the sale of smoking paraphernalia.
Special Agent Erin Mulvey, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that under the federal Controlled Substances Act, these vendors can't be arrested for selling drug paraphernalia because they can claim their products are for tobacco use.
"Our laws don't just focus on paraphernalia, but the drugs themselves," said Mulvey.
New York's Attorney General's Office, which has cracked down on shops selling dangerous substances such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts, said there are laws in place governing drug paraphernalia but most of the enforcement comes after the fact when it's found on a person with an illicit drug.
"Whatever the customer does when they take it home, it's their own business — don't ask, don't tell," owner Rob Wagner said outside his shop in New Rochelle, N.Y. "Nothing in the store is illegal. When you're home with it, whatever you decide to put in it ... I'm not going to come to your house and slap it out of your hands."
Wagner started the Glass Room five years ago after a visit with his father to the Liquid GlassShop.
Wagner says he has posted warning signs around his store, cautioning customers not to say words like "bong" or "weed" during a transaction. The utterance of such words is likely to earn a prospective buyer a trip to the sidewalk.
He also calls his business a smoke shop, refraining from the head shop designation and its drug connotations dating back to the 1960s.
"There's always been a market for this but it's been an underground market. ... If you're not into it, you tend to overlook it," Wagner said.