New York City to Ban Smoking in Parks & Beaches


Photo credit: SuperFantastic via Flickr/CC BY

New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has just acted to extend the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars to two other highly trafficked destinations: parks and beaches. He cites the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke as a primary reason for the extension, but there are certainly plenty of environmentally motivated justifications as well -- the impact of cigarette butt waste on habitats, especially marine ones, has been found to be deadly to wildlife. That said, the ex-smoker in me can't help but instinctively feel like the ban is a tad draconian -- but maybe that's just me?From Raw Story:

"The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke -- whether you're indoors or out -- hurts your health. Today, we're doing something about it," Bloomberg said. The bill must pass in the City Council, where Bloomberg has strong support.

"When this legislation is passed, all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a walk in the park or a day at the beach without having to inhale secondhand smoke," council speaker Christine Quinn said.

There's certainly a sound argument for chopping away at smoking as a practice in general -- its devastating health, social, and environmental impacts are well-documented and very real. And as it stands, New York City is already a rather inhospitable place for smokers -- in addition to the indoor-smoking ban, a pack of cigarettes currently costs upwards of $11 due to ever-rising taxes and the prospect of political misfortune for anyone who would stand in their way.

And with the addition of the newly extended ban, smokers will see their potential smoking grounds further whittled away down. Again, I know logically that only good will come from this: Less people exposed to smoke, perhaps further discouragement for those considering smoking, less opportunities for people to smoke in general. Indirectly, less cigarettes sold, healthier people, some ecosystems spared. If I had to come up with a solid argument in favor of maintaining smokers' right to smoke in public places like parks and beaches, I honestly couldn't (and wouldn't) do it.

So I guess just consider this post an idle musing on the minor toll of progress -- I used to enjoy smoking, despite the fact that it was unhealthy to myself and those around me, as I'm sure many others did and still do. I would always make an effort to sit far enough away from, say, a picnicking family in Central park as I had a cigarette over a lunch break, before I quit. It was a pleasant bad habit, though it may have impacted others than I was aware of at the time.

That in mind, it made me wonder how far support for efforts to ban smoking would reach -- for instance, would progressives and environmentalists support a full, citywide ban on smoking (with, say, exceptions made to those already addicted)? It would certainly have a distinct benefit to the environment and human health. It would save lives. Or what about a ban on smoking on public streets? People walk by, of course, and are subject to your smoke -- don't they deserve to be spared? I'm not going to propose any answers at the moment, but it's an interesting question to consider.

More on the Environmental Hazards of Cigarettes
Trillions of Killer Cigarette Butts Can Be Recycled to Fight Rust
Smoking: Environmental and Social Impacts

Tags: Air Pollution | Conservation | United States

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