New York State backs off parks smoking ban - for now

NEW YORK Tue May 29, 2012 5:45pm EDT

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York State will not enforce a controversial smoking ban in its state parks - at least for now - after a smokers' rights group complained officials failed to follow proper procedures when introducing the rule.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said on Tuesday it hopes smokers will nonetheless choose to voluntarily refrain from the habit even without the threat of a ticket or citation, and is leaving No Smoking signs in place while it seeks to get the ban formally recognized.

"There's a state rule-making process that we're undergoing that will take a couple of months and in that time we will not issue tickets," Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the parks office, said. "We've designated no-smoking areas in limited parts of the parks, and those remain in place."

The parks office had announced the smoking restrictions with immediate effect in April, saying that smokers who refused to comply could face a citation for disorderly conduct.

That prompted complaints from the smokers' rights group NYC C.L.A.S.H. that the parks office did not follow state rules about creating new policies.

In response, state officials decided to defer enforcement and follow the rulemaking process, which will include a 45-day period where the public can comment on the policy.

"Apparently, the crusade against smokers to date has so emboldened government that the rule of law no longer need be practiced when it comes to its citizens that choose to smoke," Audrey Silk, the founder of C.L.A.S.H., said in a statement.

She said her group, which maintains that smokers are being unfairly harassed, will be opposing the new policy, saying such decisions should be in the hands of the legislature.

The state banned smoking entirely from six state-run parks in New York City, and in portions of parks elsewhere in the state, particularly in areas around swimming pools and playgrounds. It argued that the ban would reduce litter and reduce park visitors' exposure to second-hand smoke, which has been linked to health problems in non-smokers.

New York City banned smoking at city-run parks and beaches in May 2011. A spokeswoman for the city's health department said the city's policy would not be affected by the state's deferment. The health department said last week that the number of smokers and the volume of discarded cigarette butts in city parks had declined by about two-thirds following the ban.

Silk, of C.L.A.S.H., said she urged smokers to ignore the ban and light up in parks.

"There's no basis for it socially and scientifically," she said in an interview. "You can no longer reason with the irrational. There's only one response left and that's civil disobedience."

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Osterman)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Cantiloper wrote:
The state … argued that the ban would reduce litter and reduce park visitors’ exposure to second-hand smoke, which has been linked to health problems in non-smokers.”

Reduce litter, possibly. Banning food with wrappers etc would be more effective. But as for the “linked to health problems” part — in terms of outdoor exposures at places like parks and beaches that’s simply an out and out lie. General outdoor durations and concentrations of exposures in such areas are orders of magnitude below ANYTHING that has ever been shown to be harmful.

If the Parks Dept, or the Health Dept, or anyone else would like to contest that, please feel free to post the links to just two or three of the best studies you can find that show such harm and be ready to defend them. NOTE: I’m asking for actual medical and scientific studies to support the claim — NOT generalized reports, opinion surveys, statements by “authorities”, websites, “factsheets”, advocacy articles etc etc … STUDIES.

I’m confident in asking for those because I’ve researched quite widely in this field over the last 20 years and I know that THERE ARE NONE. Feel free to try though.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

May 30, 2012 2:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Pictures