May 24, 2011

NYC Bans Outdoor Smoking In Public Areas

New York City's outdoor smoking ban went into effect on Monday, adding the city's parks and beaches to the list of places where smoking is prohibited as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign to promote healthy lifestyles.

The ban augments the city's 2003 prohibition on smoking cigarettes in bars and restaurants.

The new law will not be enforced by police, but by staff who oversee the city's 29,000 acres of park land and beaches.  Violators face a $50 fine.

"We don't think that people should be exposed to those chemicals when they go to a park to enjoy the fresh air," said city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley in an interview with Reuters.

New York's City Council voted in February to broaden the city's smoking ban to include its 1,700 parks, beaches, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas, including Times Square.

Other major cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, have already enacted similar bans.

New Yorkers are still permitted to smoke on sidewalks, parking lots, streets and in their homes.

Not everyone is happy about the new law.

Audrey Silk, a member of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, called the ban "an extreme revocation of civil liberties rather than telling people to just walk away."

"If you held up the evidence up to sunlight, it would disintegrate," she told Reuters.

Mayor Bloomberg has enacted other health measures in the city, including a ban on trans fats in restaurant food and requiring chain restaurants to display calorie counts on menus.

He has also campaigned nationally on health issues, urging food companies to reduce salt levels in their products and calling for the federal government to prohibit the purchase of sugary drinks with food stamps.


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