(UPDATED with reaction from Cigar Rights of America) // Residents of, and visitors to New York City have lost wide expanses of real estate where they can enjoy their perfectly legal product. The New York City Council voted yesterday to extend its already-strict indoor smoking ban to a wide expanse of outdoor areas in the city’s 5 boroughs.
By a vote of 36-12, the city will in 90 days start enforcing a ban on smoking in 1,700 city parks and 14 miles of public beaches. Boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas are also covered by the ban.
For smokers, this means no more lighting up in the city’s iconic locations like Central Park andTimes Square. If a person is busted enjoying their favorite stogie (or cigarette), they’ll be subject to fines of up to $100. The city expects its citizens to be the ones reporting violators, though, as police will not be responsible for enforcing the expanded ban.
“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,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after the vote.
Some councilpeople who voted against the measure said it infringes on individual rights. “I truly believe government is being too restrictive in his particular matter,” said Robert Jackson, D-Harlem. “It’s a totalitarian society that’s going to have this type of restrictions … As someone who wants to breathe clean air, I think we are going too far and being intrusive.”
“The city is taking it too far. I think it’s ridiculous,” said 25-year-old New Yorker George Wells.
Other opponents question the risk levels associated with secondhand smoke.
Stogie’d contacted the organization Cigar Rights of America (CRA) for reaction. Executive Director J. Glynn Loope said via email:
Cigar Rights of America is very disappointed in the vote of New York City Council regarding the passage of a parks, beaches and major pedestrian thoroughfare smoking ban.
Now, in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg botching his choice for school system management, mishandling the city snow removal process, a record budget crisis, this week launching his own “sting operation” at an out of state gun show, and this week announcing that they will close an additional ten city schools, comes another Bloomberg diversion.
Cigar Rights of America and the New York Tobacconist’s Association reviewed and provided comments on a proposed compromise put forth by City Councilman Peter Vallone, as well as compromise versions advocated by Council members Rosie Mendez and Eric Ulrich. They were each better than that supported by Bloomberg and Quinn. The 36-12 vote speaks to the division in Council on this matter.
The measure was advocated by NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley; the same “health” commissioner that used $71,000 tax dollars to develop a brochure on how to safely use heroin.
As soon as Michael Bloomberg leaves office, reasonable amendments to this measure will be proposed. New York City’s parks and beaches belong to all residents and travelers, alike. New York has always been about welcoming all, tolerance of others, compromise, and seeking a future that takes into account diverse interests. We know that this is not Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn’s approach to governing, but it should be the city’s approach to legislation.
As indicated by CRA’s Loope, an effort by Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr. to allow for designated smoking sections at public parks and beaches never made it into the final proposal. “It still has a lot of support,” Vallone said prior to Wednesday’s vote. “I’m disappointed leadership chose to move the original bill and not my compromise.”
In 2003, Mayor Bloomberg helped to usher in a smoking ban on indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants, as well as in playgrounds at city parks.
The hysteria in New York City is even going indoors. A co-op–dwelling family in Manhattan is suing their neighbor for $2 million dollars, over claims of damage from secondhand smoke. According to the New York Post, Russell and Amanda Poses say their neighbor has made their lives miserable with his cigar smoking. The Poses also reportedly have a son who has asthma. They also claim they lose sleep and suffer from headaches, chest pains and respiratory problems, as a result of secondhand smoke.
The neighbor, Harry Dale, says he takes most of his smoke breaks outside, and uses three air cleaners in his third-floor co-op. He has even hired a specialist to try to seal off his apartment from the Poses’ dwelling,