New York expands smoking ban
New York has expanded its Smoke Free Air Act to ban smoking at the city’s parks and beaches. The vote was divisive, with one council member saying the law infringed on individual liberties, according to the New York Times.
Under the new law, which the council approved Wednesday, smoking no longer is allowed in parks, beaches, marinas and boardwalks. City pools, recreation centers and all other property, equipment, buildings and facilities under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department are included in the ban, as are pedestrian plazas, which are areas located within the bed of a roadway that the Department of Transportation has designated for use as a plaza. The ban does not include the sidewalks immediately adjoining parks, squares and public places; any pedestrian route through any park strip, median or mall that is adjacent to vehicular traffic; parking lots; and actors in theatrical performances. Violators face a $50 fine.
Supporters of the ban say that, along with protecting public health, it will reduce the amount of trash in parks and beaches. The council cited studies that show that even brief exposure to second-hand smoke can result in respiratory changes in a healthy person and lead to more frequent asthma attacks for children with asthma. Another cited study found that 2.5 million New Yorkers had been exposed to a high enough level of second-hand smoke that they had measurable residue in their bodies, said Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, Chair of the Health Committee.
“The statistics don’t lie: second-hand smoke kills. With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. “No one should have to inhale deadly cigarette smoke when they go to a park or beach.”
However, Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson said the law went too far, according to the Times. “We’re moving toward a totalitarian society if in fact we’re going to have those kinds of restrictions on New Yorkers,” Jackson said. Queens Councilman Daniel Halloran said he was worried that “we will next be banning smoking on sidewalks, and then in the cars of people who are driving minors and then in the homes.”