News / USA

New Yorkers Have Mixed Feelings About Ban on Smoking in Parks

Jean Pierre says the ban is unfair to smokers like him
Jean Pierre says the ban is unfair to smokers like him

Smoking has long been illegal in New York City bars and restaurants, including open-air restaurants, as well as in public transit, workplaces, schools and stores, among other places. On May 23rd, New York also joined 500 other U.S. municipalities that have banned smoking in parks and public squares. Under the new law, smokers who light up anywhere in New York’s more than 1,700 parks and pedestrian plazas, or along its 22 kilometers of beaches, could face a $50 fine.

Friends Megan Burns and Micah Bozeman are divided on the issue
Friends Megan Burns and Micah Bozeman are divided on the issue

Park visitors questioned on one of the last days before the ban took effect had mixed feelings about the new law. Micah Bozeman, who was sitting with his friend Megan Burns, a smoker, said he thought the ban was a good idea, on balance. “I don’t want cigarette smoke in my face when I’m sitting in a park. I don’t want it in my face while walking down the street, either,” he said. Nor did he want to lie in the beach and find cigarette butts in the sand. On the other hand, Bozeman noted, “People have an addiction. They need to smoke.”

Exhaling a cloud of smoke, his friend Burns exclaimed, “We’re outdoors! I don’t see how it could really bother anyone that much.” She added that she doesn’t smoke much, but prefers doing it outdoors, where she’s not so exposed to her own secondhand smoke. “I don’t like being trapped in an apartment with smoke.”

Nowhere to go for a smoke?

“It’s stupid,” said Jean Pierre, another smoker. “I think it’s crazy, because they’re making it so that you can’t go nowhere and have a cigarette.” He said that he is considerate and doesn’t light up without asking people nearby if they mind. “I do show respect for people who don’t smoke. I will get up and move if my smoke is bothering you,” he said.

Michael Walters, who plays chess in the parks, welcomed the smoking ban
Michael Walters, who plays chess in the parks, welcomed the smoking ban

“A lot of people are considerate,” conceded Sharon Stahlnecker, a tourist from Oregon. “But it’s just that those of us who don’t smoke, appreciate no smoke.” Michael Walters, who was sitting down for a lunch-hour game of chess in City Hall Park, agreed. “I think the ban is good. It will improve the health of the public, the smoker and the nonsmoker alike,” he said.

That is also the hope of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance in Queens, whose members say they were the first to lobby for the smoking ban. On the cool gray day that the new law took effect, they gathered in a riverside park to celebrate. Activist Warren Schreiber said that discarded cigarette butts were a litter nuisance and a hazard to wild birds. And he said that children should not see people smoking in the parks, even if it can’t be avoided elsewhere.

Some anti-smoking activists fear the ban could trigger a public backlash

Yet other anti-smoking advocates say that people’s health is not endangered by momentary exposure to smoke diluted in the open air. They argue that the ban could lead to a backlash against more important anti-tobacco campaigns. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said the emphasis should be on the 22 American states that still allow smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos.


“My fear is that we’re going to detract from smoke-free policies where they’re really a life-and-death matter for employees,” he said. “There are still about one-third of workers in the country who are not protected from secondhand smoke in the workplace. The levels of exposure in these environments are enormous, and people are exposed chronically. And they can’t escape, unlike a park, where you can just get up and move.”

Siegel also contends that banning smoking in the open space of the city’s parks will only lead to more concentrated secondhand smoke on New York sidewalks, at park entrances and in people’s homes. “We know that chronic exposure to secondhand smoke in the home is a very important source of exposure and disease for people, especially for children,” he said. “So if anything, the message we want to be sending to smokers is ‘please, do smoke outdoors! That’s where you really should be smoking to avoid [these] effects.’"

However, Rebecca Kalin, head of a group called Asthma Free School Zone, noted that even passing exposure to smoke can cause severe reactions in some people with asthma. “It’s not always easy to move away from a smoker,” Kalin said. “And it would be impossible to say, well, it’s okay here, and it’s not okay there. The goal really, is to eradicate smoking, eradicate tobacco. It is dangerous. It is life-threatening. It takes more lives than many other diseases put together.”

City officials say they hope the law will be self-enforcing, and that park officers, not police, will issue warnings and tickets. But critics predict the ban will be widely ignored in New York’s thousands of hectares of parkland. And one smokers’ rights group, the New York chapter of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment [CLASH], said it will flout the rule with a "smoke-in-the-park" protest at a beach in Brooklyn. In a statement, the group said, “This law will be paid the respect it deserves.”

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs