NEW YORK (Reuters) - Smoking in New York City’s parks, beaches, boardwalks, pedestrian plazas and other public spaces will be banned from May 23 despite complaints about excessive meddling by government in people’s private lives.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the legislation on Tuesday after the city council voted 36 to 12 in favour of the smoking restrictions earlier this month. The law extends the city’s existing ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.
“Frederick Law Olmsted hailed public parks as the ‘lungs of the city’ — a haven where one could escape the overcrowded, noisy and polluted streets,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “We need to ensure that our public spaces provide just that — a healthy place in which to relax and enjoy the surroundings.”
New York joins Chicago and San Francisco with initiatives fighting second-hand smoke in public places.
New York City’s parks department will enforce the ban, which said it would give a warning before issuing a $50 fine. Police will not enforce the ban.
“This is tyranny, rationalized by a lie,” said Audrey Silk, director of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. “That second hand smoke is harming anybody outside is an absolute lie.”
She said that her organization plans to organize an outdoor “smoke-in” on May 23.
Bloomberg has also promoted health measures including a ban on trans fats in restaurant food and a requirement that chain restaurants display calorie counts on menus.
Bloomberg is campaigning nationally for food companies to cut salt levels in their products and for the federal government to ban the purchase of sugary drinks with food stamps — federal vouchers used by 42 million low-income Americans to buy food.
New Yorkers can smoke on sidewalks, parking lots, streets and in their homes, although most landlords don’t allow it.
Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Michelle Nichols and Philip Barbara