City parks next target of smoking ban
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is once again telling smokers to snuff it.
The city’s war on tobacco – which includes a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants and a graphic ad campaign – may soon mean a prohibition on lighting up at parks and beaches.
“Smoking is responsible for killing over 7,000 New Yorkers a year,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Monday. “We don’t think it’s too far to say that people shouldn’t be smoking in parks, and to try to protect our children from getting addicted to tobacco.”
The proposal, part of a report on the city’s health goals for the next three years, is in keeping with Bloomberg’s aggressive focus on promoting healthy habits.
“It’s absurd. It’s getting to the point that we can’t do anything on our own,” Brian St. Just, a 33-year smoker from The Bronx, said. “We should be trusted to make our own decisions.”
The city already has banned trans fats, mandated that calories be posted in some restaurants and recently began a public campaign against sugary drinks.
The approach has won plaudits from many public health experts, even as some say it goes too far.
“This is Mike Bloomberg’s nanny government again,” said City Councilman Tony Avella, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor in today’s primary.
Christine Hirschl, 44, a smoker from Manhattan, agreed.
“It’s not about smoking anymore, it’s about your rights,” she said. “It’s almost like we have no free will.”
Few details were given on how the ban would be enacted and enforced.
Smoking is already banned in playgrounds in city parks. The ban’s enforced by Parks Department “peace officers” who can issue summonses.
A spokesman for Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, said the administration has “not decided on a single strategy for reducing second-hand smoke in our parks.”
San Francisco and Los Angeles have similar bans, as do other cities, counties and states, including Utah, Louisiana, Maine and California.
“I’d love to see no smoking anywhere,” Irvin Kelly, 32, of Astoria, said when told of the proposal. “How about a world where the air is clean?”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who said she believes a ban would require legislation, expressed support.
“Obviously, I’m going to need to see the specifics of it, but it’s a concept I’m very open to,” she said.
Audrey Silk, the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, called the proposal “a form of bigotry.”
She said she found the idea of prohibiting smoking on beaches hypocritical.
“While everyone’s sunning themselves under the carcinogenic sun, they’re going to complain about the smell of smoke,” she said.
The AP and Anndrew Vacca contributed to this story