2010-09-17 / Top Stories

Bloomberg To Ban Smoking On Rockaway Beaches

By Howard Schwach

Smoking on the beach has always been one of Rockaway’s pleasures, but that might end soon with a new city law that would ban smoking on beaches and in parks. Smoking on the beach has always been one of Rockaway’s pleasures, but that might end soon with a new city law that would ban smoking on beaches and in parks. After months of consideration, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will soon propose a ban on smoking at all if the city’s parks and beaches, a city source says.

The move, sources say, is an extension of his anti-smoking crusade, which began years ago with a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

In the past, Bloomberg expressed concern that it would be tough to enforce the ban because of the sheer size of the city’s parks and beaches.

But city Health Commissioner Tom Farley has been pushing the ban for months.

The new ban requires the vote of the City Council, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn backs the ban and joined Bloomberg for the announcement of the plan.

Her support most often guarantees the passage of a bill.

Park advocates also back the bill.

“I fully support this, not only for health reasons, but for the quality of life at our parks and beaches,” said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates.

Mayor Bloomberg said that he had been thinking of this law for some time and has now decided to push for its passage, because “Its need is clear.”

“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,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

“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,” said Speaker Quinn. “From South Beach, Staten Island to City Island in the Bronx, when people visit parks and beaches, they expect to get some fresh air, not inhale deadly carcinogens. Studies have shown that outdoor tobacco smoke levels can be as high as secondhand smoke levels indoors and there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. This bill will save lives and make New York City a healthier place to live. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, my colleagues in the City Council, and advocates for leading this groundbreaking public health effort.”

“New York is the national leader in creating healthy cities, and promoting a healthy life style,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer, as she introduced her legislation to ban smoking at public parks and beaches. “That’s why we’re pushing to get butts off the beaches. And it’s not just a health issue, as any beachgoer knows: despite the clean-up efforts of the Parks Department, the sand is too often used as an ashtray.”

Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can result in respiratory changes in a healthy person and lead to more frequent asthma attacks in children with asthma. A person sitting within three feet of a smoker outside can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to those experienced indoors. More than half of non-smoking New Yorkers (57%) have elevated levels of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine, in their blood – meaning that they were recently exposed to toxic secondhand smoke in concentrations high enough to leave residues in the body.

“We are all exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco – regardless of whether or not we have made the choice to smoke – if we are around someone who is smoking,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “By expanding the Smoke Free Air Act to include our parks and beaches, we will create a healthier environment for all those who live in and visit New York City.”

“Cigarettes kill some 7,500 New Yorkers every year, and thousands more suffer smoking-related strokes, heart attacks, lung diseases and cancers,” said Commissioner Farley. “New York City’s Smoke Free Air Act has greatly reduced the harm that cigarettes cause to nonsmokers. By expanding the act to cover parks and beaches, we can reduce the toll even further.”

The mayor said that New York City anticipates its residents and visitors will follow the new smoking policy on their own. Research shows that 65 percent of New Yorkers favor banning smoking at outdoor recreational places such as parks, ball fields and playgrounds. As with any quality-of-life issue in City parks, however, a violation summons may be issued by the Parks Department when appropriate.

“By supporting this legislation, we welcome the chance to improve the beauty and health of the City’s public outdoor spaces,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Tens of millions of visitors – New Yorkers and tourists alike – enjoy our beaches and parks year round, and we hope this new legislation makes it even safer and more pleasant for children and adults to play sports and for visitors of all interests to enjoy healthier and cleaner parks and beaches.”

One disgruntled local smoker on the boardwalk this week disagreed.

The woman, who declined to give her name to a Wave reporter, said that the city was only looking to make more money on the backs of its residents.

“This isn’t about health,” she said. “It’s about giving out tickets and raising revenue for the city. That’s all that Bloomberg is ever about.”

An insider said that there would be some exceptions to the new law, but declined to say what they might be.

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