ABC News: NYC Smoking Ban in Parks, Beaches Goes Into Effect

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May 23, 2011

Click to see video: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/nyc-smoking-ban-parks-beaches-effect/story?id=13662194

For a city that seems to thrive on excess, there is one
area where New York is coming up short: ashtrays.

As of today, all public parks, beaches and pedestrian
plazas will be smoke-free, enforced by a $50 fine.

With bars and restaurants already giving them the
brush, places like Central Park, Times Square plaza
and Coney Island's boardwalk will join the list of  
places that no longer welcome smokers to sit back
and light up.

Following the lead of Los Angeles and Chicago, New
York City is now the largest metropolitan area to
attempt to cut down on the amount of second-hand
smoke by enacting smoke-free laws for open areas.

It is the latest victory for advocates of smoke-free
environments as more local and state governments
explore the possibility of expanding their
antismoking legislation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 25 states have smoking bans for
worksites, restaurants and bars and an additional five
states ban smoking in at least two of those areas. The
remaining states are dotted with local and municipal
laws prohibiting people from lighting up at work,
near hospitals, or at bars and restaurants.

As a whole, most of the states with the strictest laws
are north of the Mason-Dixon line, along with the
Southwest. Perhaps not surprisingly, the largest
numbers of smokers live in areas where the laws are
not as stringent on smoking.

Based on data from the National Cancer Institute and
the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Lung
Association monitors each state's legislative efforts to
determine whether it's making the grade in
nonsmoking initiatives.

Across the country, including Puerto Rico, the ALA
has awarded 24 states and the District of Columbia
the highest marks, while more than 25 percent of the
country is considered below average in promoting
and regulating smoke-free surroundings. The
grading system was started in 2002, after Delaware
passed a statewide smoking ban that preceded a
groundswell of other states following suit.

"We know that decision-makers do not want to say
that they are failing the health of their constituents,"
New York Chapter of the American Lung Association
spokesman Michael Seilback said.

In 1995, California broke ground as the first to issue
a statewide ban. Since then, the effort to snuff out
smoking in public places has spread to areas where it
might have at first seemed unlikely.

"States like Missouri, South Carolina, Texas,
Mississippi are all passing laws at the local level,"
said Cynthia Hallett, executive director for the
advocacy group, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
Her organization has been pushing nonsmoking
legislation since the 1970s, born from the early
efforts in California.

But despite an increase in the number of bans across
the country, like those in New York City, cigarette
makers are reluctant to say whether it has an impact
on the actual number of smokers.

"It's difficult to tell whether this has a significant
impact on sales," said a spokesperson for Philip
Morris USA, makers of Marlboro, Basic and Virginia
Slim cigarettes. "There are so many factors that have

contributed to the decline (of cigarette sales) such as
excise taxes, people smoking less…"

According to the company, cigarette sales have
steadily declined over the past decade, dropping as
much as 5 percent over the most recent years.

While additional bans are not likely to help slumping
sales, one tobacco company denies it is trying to stop
the new laws.

"We don't have boots on the ground, so to speak,
fighting against these smoking bans," R.J. Reynolds
Tobacco spokesman John Singleton said. "There are
grassroots organizations that are taking up this
issue, but we're not putting energy into it."

But with active groups like Citizens Lobbying Against
Smoker Harassment, cigarette makers may not need to
get involved. The organization is protesting New York
City's outdoor ban by staging a "smoke-in" at one of
the city's public beaches.

The group's founder refused to talk about the event
or make a statement, but according to the group's
website, the day will include "the time honored
tradition and civic duty of civilly disobeying unjust
laws.