Smokers fuming over Mayor Bloomberg's new smoking bill
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hitting too close to home for some smokers.
Hizzoner introduced a bill Wednesday that would require building owners with three or more units to provide guidelines for where smoking is permitted on their properties, such as courtyards, rooftops and in apartments themselves. The rules must be given to prospective tenants, and could also be made available to current residents.
"It won't ban smoking in residential buildings, only ensure that New Yorkers can choose a smoke-free place to live," said Bloomberg, an ex-smoker who's championed anti-tobacco laws and campaigns.
City officials said the disclosure forms are similar to notices that owners must provide about bedbugs and lead paint to renters and buyers.
While Bloomberg stressed that he doesn't want to ban smoking in the home, smokers' rights advocates worry that forcing landlords to write up smoking rules could be a first step to a wholesale ban.
Brooklyn resident Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said building owners could decide to prohibit cigarettes outright rather than deal with figuring out where tenants can and can't smoke.
"This is part of the incrementalism we've come to know from anti-smoking crusaders," Silk said.
Smoking is already banned in city bars and restaurants, as well as plazas and parks.
The mayor's proposal, which will require City Council approval, would be self-enforcing among tenants, said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
Building owners, however, who fail to comply could be fined $100, Farley told amNewYork.
He added that New Yorkers have become increasingly accepting of anti-smoking measures, with city data last fall showing the adult smoking rate dropping to an all-time low of 14%, down from 22% in 2002.
Real estate lawyer Aaron Shmulewitz said he's noticed an uptick in co-ops and condos also talking about making their buildings smoke-free, but conceded there's "no airtight way" to enforce rules against puffing in your pad.
Smokers remain wary of Bloomberg's latest push.
"I think it's bull," said Pamela Ewan, 23, who lives in an East New York apartment building. "I pay to live here, it's my building, it's my health, let me smoke."
"This is another example of Bloomberg going too far," added Sean Stewart, 33, of Union Square. "It's just more regulation for buildings that they probably don't need."
But smoker Mike Walker, 46, of midtown, was more diplomatic: "I don't like it, but you've got to respect those who have asthma," he said.
Russ Sciandra, the American Cancer Society's New York state director for advocacy, said he hopes more buildings will be encouraged to go smoke-free.
"We're concerned because secondhand smoke causes cancer," Sciandra said. "It's a real health problem for a lot of people. We think the disclosure law will give people an opportunity to weigh this factor in renting."
(With Rachel Hawatmeh)