NYC Approves Smoking Ban in City Parks, Beaches

Thursday, February 03, 2011

cigarette smoking (flickr user lanier67)

After a spirited debate, the New York City Council voted to ban smoking in parks and on beaches in what Mayor Bloomberg called a major milestone in the city's efforts to improve public health. 

The smoking ban -- which faced a lopsided 36-to-12 vote -- covers all 1,700 city parks, its 14 miles of beaches and pedestrian plazas like Times Square. It takes effect 90 days from when Mayor Bloomberg, who introduced the idea, signs the bill.

"Our efforts over the last nine years have resulted in more than 350,000 fewer smokers, and contributed to New Yorkers living 19 months longer than they did in 2002," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement.

Opponents railed against the growth of a nanny state that was bigfooting civil liberties, claiming smoking is still a legal act and one the city and state taxed heavily.

Proponents used the city's troubling juvenile asthma rates and their personal testimonials about the loss of intimates to cancer to make their case. The vote came after a passionate debate with rhetorical flourishes on both sides.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Leticia James invoked the memory of two young constituents who had died from complications from asthma. She said she supported the ban because the potential public health benefits so outweighed any other considerations.

"When you go home today just think about all the funerals you have had to attend for individuals who have dies a premature death  as the result of smoking," she said. "I vote yes."

Queens Councilman James Sanders said as a former two-pack-a-day smoker he knew smoking was a dangerous addiction that needed to be discouraged. But he said the expansive outdoor ban crossed a fundamental line that amounted to an abusive intrusion by government.

"The civil libertarian in me tells me that we are cutting down on the rights of people too much. So I'll have to vote no on this one," he said.

Republican Council James Oddo of Staten Island made a point of recounting his work with Speaker Quinn to ban smoking in the city's bars and restaurants. But this measure he said was badly flawed.

"If on a Sunday I go to Van Briesen Park and am reading a novel, and I am smoking a cigar and the nearest person is two to three thousand feet away it shows that this bill is not narrowly tailored enough," Oddo said.

The bill's prime sponsor, Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, said the bill was not meant to be revenue-raiser or punitive.

"I support this legislation because second-hand smoke is a health problem for all New Yorkers but especially for families who have children with chronic asthma," Brewer said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she supported the measure because second-hand smoke has already taken a toll on New Yorkers.

"Fifty-seven percent of New Yorker City non-smokers have a chemical in their body, which indicates they have been exposed to second-hand smoke," Quinn said.

That statistic compares unfavorably, the speaker said, with the national average of 45 percent.

The vote follows similar bans enacted in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Great Neck, Long Island and more than 400 municipalities.


More in:

Comments [33]

Juan Ramon Rios from Bronx

Celebrations are in order!!!!!!!!!

I am so happy there are smoke-free environments in NYC for our children especially those who are inflicted with asthma.

Clean beaches and parks for our families.

My favorite uncle died from lung cancer at the age of 54. He did not know how toxic cigarettes are.

Let's ban this toxic product all together.

Feb. 04 2011 01:51 PM
Penelope from Astoria NY

As someone who grew up surrounded by inconsiderate smokers, this makes me really happy!!!!

Feb. 03 2011 04:05 PM
GB from Brooklyn, NY

As a person (31yo) that has NEVER smoked a single cigarette, I think this sounds like personal issues turned into laws . Try going for a run over any of the city's bridges, it's like smoking 1 pack each direction. Try standing on the chinatown subway platform for 10 minutes, it's like waiting in a dumpster, try riding a vespa behind a school bus, it's like sucking on a chimney. If they really cared about our sensitive lungs they wouldn't start with pollutants smaller than a pencil.

Feb. 03 2011 01:10 PM
Melanie from Bronx, NY

What I would like to see for smokers is something like the dog park idea, but enclosed. I grew up in the north Bronx and had to change trains at the elevated 180th Street station. There was an enclosed waiting area that was supposed to ease the wait in inclement weather. What it actually was, though, was a smoking shack and even when the temperatures and wind chill were punishing, I would wait on the platform because the atmosphere inside the enclosure was poisonous, even if no one was in there smoking. So I think a useful compromise would be to put up smoking shacks for smokers and charge a small fee to use them (which would support cleaning and maintenance).

What I would not like to see is the arrangment where nonsmokers have to pass through the "smoking area" to use whatever facility they need or want. When there were smoking areas in restaurants, I would avoid the ones that had the smoking area in the front because once I had passed through the noxious cloud, there was no point in ordering food. I couldn't taste or smell anything but smoke for at least half an hour.

Feb. 03 2011 12:26 PM

many against the bill decry bloomberg dictating what a citizen puts in their mouth. if you want to eat deep fried peanut butter sandwiches, go for it. if you want to release carcinogenic foul toxins in the air in my vicinity, or that of my loved ones, i'm for a thousand dollar fine. you'll spend that on cigarettes in three months anyway. with a 5 mph steady breeze a smoker can leave a stench a full 250 feet or a city block away.

Feb. 03 2011 12:12 PM
Joe Pearce from Brooklyn

I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, but my parents, family and friends were practically all smokers all the time I was growing up and well into my middle age. Somehow I am still here, in my eighth decade, hale and hearty despite my constant exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke from the time I was an infant - in the living room, in the bedroom, in the kitchen, in the workplace, in the movie houses, in the army, etc. I know lots of people who have died of cancer, many in my own family, but I don't know a single person who ever died of lung cancer who was not also a smoker.

The City Council's action is nothing but harassment of smokers. If it wasn't for the taxes taken in at every public level from the sale of cigarettes, and the necessity for the federal government to support the tobacco industry in general while decrying the product it produces, smoking would have been totally outlawed decades back, once proof positive was found that smoking did, indeed, cause cancer. Think of all the products that have been removed from the market because there is some evidence (not nearly as much as with cigarettes) that they cause cancer (remember cyclamates?), yet we will not ban cigarettes. But we will incrementally harass every smoker in ever increasing degrees as if what they were doing was criminal. Until such time as it IS criminal, these harassment actions are nothing but nanny-state measures to soothe the consciences of government officials who won't take the required steps to outlaw smoking and make the sale of cigarettes a crime. Maybe they fear the Prohibition-like reaction that would surely ensue, and they would be totally right to do so.

Either ban cigarettes outright or stop the near-criminal harassment of people whose smoking violates no law except those ordinances created mainly to add to the public coffers.

Feb. 03 2011 12:10 PM
Susan Cameron

I, too, would prefer at least creating zones. Mayor Bloomberg is micromanaging much too much.

Feb. 03 2011 12:04 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

Smoking is disgusting, smokers are irresponsible litter bugs who litter the air as they exhale and litter the ground with ash and butts. If they could contain all of that there would be no problem. Those who use the argument about car exhaust are ignorant. The fact is car exhaust and other forms of air born pollution are highly regulated to meet strict standards. If tobacco smoke had to meet the same standards it would not be as toxic.

Feb. 03 2011 12:01 PM
Nancy Foster from Manhattan

Really, we are getting to be a police state!
I cannot believe that such rather stupid rule about air that is free! Just imagine what the poor police have to watch now. And I have never griped like this!
There is so much more problems, like finding good rents, etc.

Feb. 03 2011 11:59 AM
Len from queens

I am very sympathetic to the new law...parks are no place for savoring the aroma of a marlboro....but this law really demands ridicule when you cant smoke in the middle of Times Square...among the aroma of taxis, buses, cars, and motorcycles...

Feb. 03 2011 11:59 AM
Mary Hanley from NY

I think it's great that there will be less cigarette butts on beaches and on the small green areas where you might want to put a blanket upon. Overall, smokers still tend to just throw their butt on the ground where it stays. When I had a toddler at the beach, she was more likely to find a cigarette butt in the sand than a seashell.

Feb. 03 2011 11:57 AM
Merez from 36th and 8th

I'm good with this. While I do feel for the smokers who have fewer destinations to get their fix, I'm more grateful that parks and public places will be safe for FRESH air.

Feb. 03 2011 11:57 AM
LH from Brooklyn

Oh please. The smoke is so diffuse outside. I'm a non-smoker though I feel this is absurd.

Feb. 03 2011 11:57 AM
Lisa Davenport from Weehawken, NJ

Does it really matter? As a non-smoker and NJ resident, I find just walking through the streets of Manhattan an exercise in second-hand smoking. You simply cannot avoid constant inhalation of smoke from office workers outside their buildings.

Feb. 03 2011 11:57 AM
dan k from Chelsea

i can't understand the argument about car exhaust. would any of those smokers arguing that car exhaust is outside and just as bad sit next to a muffler of an idling car and breath in? likewise, this is how those of us who don't smoke feel sitting near those who do.

Feb. 03 2011 11:56 AM
John-Paul from Elizabeth NJ

Good! I hope the fines are nice and high. Enjoy your social shunning smokers. You harm me and this will protect me from you. I hope the ban goes further.

Feb. 03 2011 11:56 AM
Marsha Andrews from uws manhattan

Yaaaaaaaay!!!!! I go outside to get fresh air and find I have to hold my breath a lot of the time when going around people who are smoking. Going by bars is painful! I am very happy about this law! I spent my childhood with smoking parents and hated it and then watched them die from smoke related diseases.

Feb. 03 2011 11:55 AM

I would rather see people be fined for throwing their butts on the ground!

Feb. 03 2011 11:55 AM

Francyne Bronx

I'm not a smoker, never have been. I think that this is a stupid idea. Police have enough real crime to enforce. There's lung damage from car exhaust and other pollutants.

Feb. 03 2011 11:54 AM

Actually I think Bloomberg should really go for it and outlaw cigarettes altogether. We know that smoking seriously compromises health. Studies have been done that show the damage occurs within seconds of inhaling cigarettes. The cost of caring for people with smoking related health problems is onerous. Ban them completely Bloomberg. You did it with trans fats!!

Feb. 03 2011 11:53 AM
David in Great Neck from LI

Great Neck ban is in effect. No summonses have been issued to date.

Feb. 03 2011 11:53 AM
Tara from LES

I cannot wait to go to a cigarette butt free beach. Can you imagine?

Feb. 03 2011 11:52 AM
L Springs from BK BK!


Feb. 03 2011 11:51 AM
John Q. Public from Queens

Does anyone understand what it means to be out in public anymore? Let me remind you: it's about seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. things that you don't necessarily like. If you have a problem then stay home. I don't like people who don't know how to walk in NYC. Should there be pedestrian lanes? I don't like loud motorcycles? Should we ban them from the city? I don't like smelly, disgusting people. Should we incarcerate all of them?

Yes, I know smoking is nasty, but is smelling smoke from an occasional smoker really going to kill me? What I choose to eat and drink every day has far more affect on my health. I really don't care if most people agree with this because that's not the point. It's about local government controlling your life.

Back to the public thing...being in public means occasionally being annoyed and inconvenienced by what someone else is doing.

Feb. 03 2011 11:41 AM
ernie from UWS

I'm not a smoker (anymore) but really, Let em have a smoke in the park. Maybe there can be zones (like quiet zones) but beyond that, let people do what they want.

Feb. 03 2011 11:32 AM
Nica from Upper West Side

Great -- now I get to choke while MORE people smoke on busy sidewalks, outside subway stations, outside residential buildings because they can't peacefully smoke in the open air parks and beaches. Please don't sign the bill, Mayor Bloomberg!! Help us NON-SMOKERS from having to intact more secondhand smoke!

Feb. 03 2011 10:44 AM
Nick from UWS

I think this is beyond outrageous. What is this police state nonsense?

Are they going to deny the hard working people of New York a quiet cigarette or cigar in the park after a hard day's work? That's what they would do, is it? They're going to send squads of cops into Times Square and ticket every European tourist who's smoking a cigarette? Way to go Michael Bloomberg, you hopeless hick. Making the city so welcoming to adults with this infantile nonsense. This is not your job Bloomberg.

This is NEW YORK CITY. Who are these meddling nobodys to poke their noses into the lives of the hard working and tax paying adults of this city? The parks and streets belong to the people; we pay for them. I'll smoke anywhere I god**mn f***king well please.

Feb. 03 2011 10:43 AM
Elizabeth from Brooklyn, New York

Don't we have better things to do?
I totally get the kid asthma thing but it's not like there is a big smoke cloud hovering over Sheep's Meadow.
How about no smoking in some sort of kid zones in central park and the like where kids tend to congregate.
I think there are so many other things to be worrying about in the city.

Feb. 03 2011 10:38 AM
David from Flushing, NY

I'm an ex-smoker, This new law is riduculous.

The Mayor should be more concerned about the fumes from commercial vehicles, instead. I can't drive the eight miles from Flushing to JFK without choking on truck fumes.

Feb. 03 2011 10:14 AM

NYC is getting as whacky as San Francisco. What happened to live and let live? Smokers are going to get summons; it will be another tax on the poor, just like parking tickets. Meanwhile, the city ignores grave health threats such as unemployment affecting mental health, poorly maintained buildings, dirty grocery stores, etc.

Feb. 03 2011 08:58 AM
gne from NYC

>>It doesn't matter if I'm smoking in the middle of a crowd of families or on an isolated path with no one near enough to be bothered

And if only you and far too many smokers had had the common courtesy to just smoke in the latter circumstance, and not in the former, there would have been no impetus for a law at all.

Feb. 03 2011 12:37 AM

Uh, James, what about 'high juvenile asthma rate' don't you understand? Wind - not controllable by even Bloomberg - blows. I, for one, am happy not to be breathing your smoke that I inevitably get hit with even if you think you are 'isolated'. Bravo Boomberg!

Feb. 02 2011 11:54 PM
James Hanks from NYC

More from Nanny-Bloomberg. It doesn't matter if I'm smoking in the middle of a crowd of families or on an isolated path with no one near enough to be bothered, I can get a ticket either way.

Feb. 02 2011 05:37 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by