The Wall Street Journal: Smoking Ban Plan Extends to Parks

(September 15, 2010)

September 15, 2010

By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL

Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans on Wednesday to propose banning smoking on New York City beaches and in city parks, marking a significant reversal in his stance from earlier this year, a person familiar with the proposal confirmed Tuesday night.

Mr. Bloomberg will be joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Gayle Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat, to announce the proposed expansion of the smoke-free air act, the mayor's office said.

While aides to Mr. Bloomberg declined to release details in advance of the announcement, a person familiar with the proposal said it would be a ban on smoking on the city's 14 miles of beaches and in its more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities.

"We're very pleased to hear that the city is going to go forward with this proposal...that is going to protect New Yorkers from second-hand smoke," said Michael Seilback, vice president for public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in New York.

In June, the mayor's press secretary, Stu Loeser, said banning smoking on beaches and in parks was "not something we're moving on." But following an aggressive lobbying campaign from Dr. Thomas Farley, commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the mayor has come around.

In 2003, Mr. Bloomberg ignited criticism when he successfully persuaded the City Council to ban smoking in bars and restaurants citywide. The measure has since gained widespread acceptance, and Mr. Bloomberg considers it to be one of the greatest achievements of his mayoralty.

In New York state, 10 counties have adopted smoke-free policies for their beaches and 34 have adopted smoke-free policies for their parks,

Audrey Silk, a retired NYPD officer and founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, a smokers' rights group, said there is "absolutely no scientific basis to ban smoking in the great outdoors."

She added: "If humans were that fragile, we would have been extinct at the advent of fire."