February 23, 2011

Outdoor Smoking Banned In NYC, Critics Cry ‘Butt Out’

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation on Tuesday banning smoking in the city's parks, beaches, boardwalks, pedestrian plazas and other public spaces.

The New York City Council voted 36 to 12 in favor of the smoking restrictions earlier this month and extends the city's existing ban on smoking in restaurants and bars despite complaints about excessive meddling by government in people's private lives, Reuters is reporting.

Joining Chicago, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, New York City is fighting second-hand smoke in public places.

"Frederick Law Olmsted hailed public parks as the "Ëœlungs of the city' - a haven where one could escape the overcrowded, noisy and polluted streets," Bloomberg said in a statement. "We need to ensure that our public spaces provide just that - a healthy place in which to relax and enjoy the surroundings."

Police will not enforce the ban, but it will be administered by New York City's parks department which said it would issue a warning before imposing a fine of $50.

Council Member Robert Jackson, opposes the bill, said the ban is "going against our liberty of the people of New York City. As someone who wants to breathe clean air, I think we are going too far and being intrusive," CNN reports.

In 1988, the Smoke Free Air Act became law banning smoking in public restrooms and taxicabs. Since then, the law has been amended three times. In 2002, smoking in indoor areas -- including restaurants and bars -- was banned.

"This is tyranny, rationalized by a lie. That second hand smoke is harming anybody outside is an absolute lie." Audrey Silk, director of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (CLASH), tells Reuters. She said that her organization plans to organize an outdoor "smoke-in" on May 23.

New Yorkers are allowed to smoke on sidewalks, parking lots, streets and in their homes, although it is discouraged by most landlords.

Mayor Bloomberg is also enforcing other health measures including a ban on trans fats in restaurant food and a requirement that chain restaurants display calorie counts on menus, along with campaigning nationally for food companies to cut salt levels in their products and for the federal government to ban the purchase of sugary drinks with food stamps.


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