Legislative Gazette: Smoking banned on MTA and LIRR train platforms

by John David Iseman

August 22, 2011

Smokers will no longer be permitted to light up at outdoor train ticketing, boarding and platform areas operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law last week that prohibits smoking in these areas and strengthens existing laws that prohibit smoking in indoor mass transportation areas and on outdoor New York City platforms.

"Exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to serious health problems for non-smokers, and this law will make outdoor MTA train platforms, ticketing and boarding areas a cleaner, healthier place for all commuters," the governor said.

The justification of the law, which will take effect in November, cites health problems as a main reason for the legislation. The state Health Department estimates 2,500 New Yorkers are killed by second-hand smoke each year.

According to the justification, 46,000 non-smokers who live with a smoker die from heart disease each year in the United States, and about 3,400 non-smoking adults in the country die each year from lung cancer.

It also says second-hand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections in children younger than 18 months, 7,500 to 15,000 annual hospitalizations and increased rates of asthma attacks.

"It is important that commuters are not unwillingly subject to the dangers of second-hand smoke while waiting on train platforms," the governor said.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, was a sponsor of the legislation (A.5516-c/S.3461-c) and said the law will help protect commuters who do not smoke that "have for too long remained exposed."

She said, "This law strengthens a critical ban to protect all commuters and improve the public health of many New Yorkers."

Complaints the MTA received concerning second-hand smoke on the platforms also pushed this legislation forward, according to Mike Virga, a spokesman for Jaffee.

Virga says this law "was not just top-down imposed" and originated with these complaints. "There was a public call for this."

Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, also helped write the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. Enacted in 2003, the act banned smoking in most indoor public areas such as bars, restaurants, indoor arenas and places of employment.

"Second-hand smoke has been proven to cause serious health problems, including cancer, which is why we need to continue to protect individuals from exposure," Fuschillo said.

Irwin Berlin, board chair of the American Lung Association in New York, said, "no one should have to endure being exposed to toxic second-hand smoke as part of their daily commute," he said.