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The City Council voted last week to expand the smoking ban by prohibiting smokers from lighting up in city parks and beaches.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) was the author of a compromise bill that would have designated smoking areas in parks and beaches but the legislation never made it to the Council floor.
“Unfortunately, we were given an all-or-nothing choice,” Vallone said. “It was a very difficult vote for me.”
Vallone said he was torn over whether government should be telling citizens where they can and cannot smoke.
Besides city parks and beaches, the ban includes pools, recreation centers and city Parks Department properties, equipment, buildings and facilities.
Places exempt from the ban include sidewalks immediately adjoining parks, squares and public spaces; any pedestrian route through any park strip, median or mall that is adjacent to vehicular traffic; and parking lots.
Actors who have to smoke as part of theatrical performances are also not included in the ban.
Anyone in violation of the ban is subject to a $50 fine for each infraction.
The Council voted in favor of the ban by a 36-12 vote.
Vallone’s district includes Astoria Park and the Astoria Pool, where smoking will be prohibited.
“The vast majority of people are happy about this bill,” he said. “They can enjoy the park and the pool without the dangers of secondhand smoke.”
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) was one of the 12 Council members to vote against the ban.
“While I understand the health concerns that prompted the introduction of this bill, it is nothing more than another example of government intruding into the private lives of New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. “The city should be less concerned about correcting people’s bad habits and more focused on solving real problems facing the city. Whether we like it or not, smokers pay taxes and they have rights, too. We need to be mindful of the fact that we’re infringing on the rights and freedoms of everyday residents who are not breaking the law.”
Proponents of the ban say it protects city residents from second-hand smoke and will reduce trash at beaches.
“The statistics don’t lie: Secondhand smoke kills,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). “With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air.”
“No one should have to inhale deadly cigarette smoke when they go to the park or beach,” she said. “My Council colleagues and I know that Big Tobacco will never rest in its efforts to recruit new smokers to replace those customers who are dying prematurely from using their products. But this summer, when people visit our beautiful parks and beaches, they will be able to relax and not worry about dodging deadly secondhand smoke.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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