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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More