Smoking to be banned at parks and beaches

The list of public places that will not allow cigarette smoking may be extended to beaches and parks.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign legislation into law that will ban smoking on beaches and in parks in time for the summer season.

Legislation banning smoking passed the NYC Council in a vote of 36 to 12 on Wednesday, February 7 and has already been hailed by Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, City Council health chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the Bronx Smoke Free Partnership, Highbridge Community Development, SoBro, and Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership as something that will make the air safer for children in parks this summer and reduce pollution on beaches. Cigarette buts are a major source of pollution, advocates of the bill said.

“This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts,” Bloomberg said. “By voting to prohibit smoking in all 1,700 city parks and 14 miles of beaches, the city council will help us protect more New Yorkers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, particularly children who suffer from asthma.”

The Bronx Smoke Free Partnership, which worked to lobby the council and partner with like-minded community organizations for the passage of the bill, celebrated it s passage as something that will demoralize smoking as an acceptable behavior that impressionable children might associate with recreation and fun.

“We are expecting that by having the no-smoking measures at parks and beaches, it will not normalize the behavior for young people, because they won’t see it in places that they associate with health and clean, family activities,” said David Lehmann, program manager for the Bronx Smoke Free Partnership. “This is especially important in the Bronx because we have more parkland than any other borough, with 24 percent parks and beaches.”

TNCAP, which has partnered with Bronx Smoke Free Partnership in moving the bill, called Intro 332, forward for since the end of last year saw the ban as still another way of stopping teens from smoking.

“TNCAP’s original goal is reduce use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana,” said TNCAP community organizer Julia Geronimo. “The strategies that are most effective are to implement policy change and media advocacy campaigns and this new legislation falls into that category.”

There is no safe amount of second hand smoke exposure, and even outdoors second hand smoke exposure is up to 50% more toxic than normal background pollution, Geronimo said.

The Bronx Smoke Free Partnership is planning a celebration in May, when the law will likely go into effect, Lehmann said.

For others, the smoking ban raises questions regarding government interference into the lives of ordinary citizens.

“When people go to a park and beach to relax, lighting up a cigarette can be almost automatic,” said Joanne Rubino, a member of Community Board 11. “I don’t even like smoking in parks and beaches, but when are we going to get tired of the government controlling almost all aspects of our lives.”

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