Smoking Ban: First Bars and Bowling Alleys, Now the Beach?

New York City may extend smoking ban to parks and beaches.

ByABC News
July 7, 2010, 2:37 PM

July 7, 2010 — -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering one of the widest smoking bans ever, extending the prohibition to the great outdoors.

Already illegal in New York City restaurants and bars, smoking would be verboten in city parks and beaches if the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has its way.

The proposal is aimed at cleaning up the city's cigarette butt-strewn outdoor spaces and clearing secondhand smoke in the wake of findings that non-smoking New Yorkers have the nation's highest level of a tobacco byproduct in their blood, advocates said.

"When you ask people in our parks and beaches," Bloomberg said at a news conference, "they say they just don't want smokers there."

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has suggested updating the ban to Mayor Bloomberg because of the negative effects smoking has on New Yorkers' health. Jessica Scaperotti, a deputy press secretary for the mayor's office, said Bloomberg is waiting for additional information before making a decision, but noted that "it is something he's leaning towards."

Other places have enacted similar ordinances. Earlier this year, Los Angeles banned smoking within 10 feet of outdoor dining areas. The city of Calabasas, Calif., has passed an ordinance that prohibits lighting up anywhere in the city where another person is within 25 feet of the smoker. Nearly 400 colleges have banned smoking on their campuses, and the Navy has banned it on submarines.

Reducing secondhand smoke is a large motivator for extending the New York City ban. "Non-smoking New York City residents tend to have more cotinine, which is a byproduct of tobacco, in their blood than nonsmokers in other parts of the country," Scaperotti said.

Susan Craig, press secretary for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said there were additional motivating factors for extending the ban.

"It's modeling behavior for children when they see adults smoking," Craig said.

"Also, it contributes to the litter," Craig said. "People treat beaches like ashtrays."

Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, echoed that statement and said that such a ban could save the city millions of dollars in garbage cleanup costs.