Newsday: LIRR, Metro-North smoking ban nears law

(June 17, 2011)

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June 17, 2011 by WILLIAM MURPHY AND JEREMY SCHNEIDER.

 

Legislation banning smoking on platforms and waiting areas of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North now awaits action by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The State Legislature passed the measure Thursday and the governor's office said Friday that it was awaiting the official bill.

Cuomo's office did not indicate whether the governor would sign the bill once it reaches his desk.

After the Legislature adopted the ban Thursday, Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), the bill's chief Senate sponsor, said, "Thousands of commuters are being exposed to harmful secondhand smoke every time someone lights up a cigarette while waiting for a train."

At the LIRR station in Mineola, commuter reaction varied Friday. "I don't blow smoke in their face," said smoker Sean O'Loughlin, 43, of Williston Park. "I don't dispute them banning smoking indoors like in bars and restaurants . . . but I believe it's one step closer to Marxism in this country."

Former smoker Jim Fernandez, 45, of Mineola, said that since smoking in bars was prohibited, "not smoking on a platform doesn't seem like much of a big deal."

The bill would ban smoking on train platforms and boarding areas operated by the LIRR and Metro North. The MTA said in a statement that it "is supportive of the legislation and its positive impacts for public health, safety and the reduction of litter and track fires."

The original bill was introduced last year by Assemb. Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern). She reintroduced the bill this year and Fuschillo sponsored it in the Senate.

The American Lung Association applauded the move. "Commuters should not have to risk having a tobacco smoke-induced asthma attack while they are simply waiting to board a train to go to work," Michael Seilback, the group's vice president of public policy and communications, said in a statement.

"Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to a number of different health problems, even among nonsmokers," Fuschillo said. "New York needs to expand its own anti-smoking laws to better protect people from secondhand smoke."

The state Department of Health estimates that secondhand smoke exposure kills 2,500 New Yorkers each year. The American Lung Association estimates it causes 3,400 lung-cancer deaths among nonsmokers annually.

The legislative memo in support of the bill said "it is not uncommon" to see riders on MTA platforms "move away from individuals who are smoking so as to not expose themselves to harmful secondhand smoke."

Smoking is already banned on New York City subway platforms and rail platforms in New Jersey.

With John Valenti