LIHerald.com: NO BUTTS ABOUT IT: Smoking banned from LIRR Platforms

August 17, 2011

By Lee Landor

Smoking is now officially prohibited on Long Island Rail Road platforms.

Citing the dangers of secondhand smoke, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law on Monday that forbids commuters from smoking on all MTA-operated outdoor train ticketing, boarding or platform areas. Cuomo joined a number of Long Island legislators, including Assembly Members Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), in supporting the smoking-ban legislation, which was introduced by upstate Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) in early January. Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) introduced the legislation in the Senate.

“It’s a good idea because secondhand smoke is a cancer causer,” Weisenberg had told the Herald. “[We need this] to protect the public, to protect our children from being exposed to smoke.”

When Jaffee first introduced the bill on Jan. 5, it seemed to fit into a trend growing on Long Island at that time to ban smoking in outdoor public places. The Hempstead Town Board voted in November to prohibit smoking at the town’s 100 parks, except in designated areas. In early January, the Village of Great Neck banned smoking on sidewalks in commercial areas. New York City officials prohibited smoking at public beaches, parks and playgrounds in May.

“Everybody thinks this is extreme,” Weisenberg said of the trend. “It’s not extreme. Smoking kills people. It destroys the environment.”

Smoking is already banned on all subway platforms in New York City and this law extends protections to LIRR and Metro-North stations. It takes effect in mid-November.

“Every day, thousands of LIRR and Metro-North commuters are exposed to harmful secondhand smoke each time someone lights up a cigarette while waiting for a train,” Fuschillo said in a statement Monday. “As the author of the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, I applaud Governor Cuomo’s support of such an important health initiative.”

Fuschillo authored the 2003 Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in virtually all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, and in public transportation facilities and vehicles. He now chairs the Senate’s transportation committee. “It is important that commuters are not unwillingly subject to the dangers of secondhand smoke while waiting on train platforms,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday. “Exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to serious health problems for non-smokers and this law will make outdoor MTA train platforms … a cleaner, healthier place for all commuters. We must continue to work to protect New Yorkers and improve public health, and I thank Senator Fuschillo and Assemblywoman Jaffee for sponsoring this important legislation.”

According to estimates from the New York State Department of Health, secondhand smoke exposure kills 2,500 New Yorkers every year; American Lung Association statistics indicate that it causes about 3,400 lung-cancer deaths among nonsmokers annually. In a memo of support, the ALA noted that tobacco smoke is a “known asthma trigger” and that this law “could mean the difference between having an asthma attack or not for those individuals forced to be in close contact with secondhand smoke while simply waiting to board a train.”

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