Advocates Applaud Council as it Extends Smoke-Free Protections to Parks, Beaches and Pedestrian Plazas

NYC Joins 100 Other Cities and Counties in New Standard For Tobacco Control, Builds Momentum for NY State to Act Next

(February 2, 2011)

Health advocates, environmentalists and parks activists joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn today to applaud council members as they prepare to extend smoke-free policies to include parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas. The new rules will reduce toxic secondhand smoke exposure for families seeking relaxation and recreation, and reduce pollution from cigarette butts, the number one source of beach litter afflicting families seeking clean fun in the city.

"The statistics don't lie: second hand smoke kills. With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air," said Speaker Quinn. "No one should have to inhale deadly cigarette smoke when they go to a park or beach. My Council colleagues and I know that Big Tobacco will never rest in its efforts to recruit new smokers to replace those customers who are dying prematurely from using their products. But this summer, when people visit our beautiful parks and beaches, they will be able to relax and not worry about dodging deadly secondhand smoke. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Council Member Gale Brewer and the many advocates who worked so hard to make this legislation possible."

Activists who have worked in favor of the measure, Intro 332, applauded Quinn and her colleagues and urged Mayor Bloomberg to sign it into law once it is passed.

"All New Yorkers deserve the right to breathe healthy air at our public parks, beaches and plazas. Thanks to this policy, public spaces intended for outdoor recreation will now be available for use in the healthy manner they were intended," said Sheelah Feinberg, Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, who noted that two-thirds of New Yorkers supported smoke free rules for parks, beaches and plazas in an independent poll conducted in 2009. "With this measure, New York is joining more than 100 cities and counties nationwide who already have already adopted smoke-free ordinances to protect residents from the dangers of second smoke in places where families gather for relaxation and recreation."

"More than 200 localities across New York state have passed regulations restricting tobacco use in outdoor recreational areas," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "The effect of this new policy on children with asthma and their families will be invaluable. No longer will a parent planning a day at the beach have to worry that his child's exposure to secondhand smoke might spoil the day's fun or result in an unwanted and frightening emergency room visit. We are grateful to Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the members of the City Council for taking action to improve the lung health of City residents. Now it's time for the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to enact proposals to make state parks smoke-free."

"In commemoration of American Heart Month this February, I can think of no better way for the Council to help the American Heart Association celebrate this event than by passing Intro 332," stated William B. Borden, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Public Health, Division of Cardiology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. "Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cardiovascular disease in our city. By implementing the ban on smoking at our parks and beaches, we intend to save the nearly 20 lives that are taken from us each day as a result of tobacco use. By making it harder to smoke, the American Heart Association hopes the nearly million smokers we have in our five boroughs will call 311 and utilize the city's cessation services."

"Smoke-free parks and beaches are indeed the new standard for healthy living, and we applaud Speaker Quinn and Council member Brewer for pioneering these efforts," said Donald Distasio, CEO of the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey. "This is the new frontier for tobacco control there's no turning back. We encourage New Yorkers to get out and use our public spaces for healthy activity and, in doing so, reduce their cancer risk."

"We fully support this initiative," said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Parks Advocates. "We are happy our elected officials are finally embracing this issue. This important legislation will measurably impact the public's health while helping to make visiting our parks and open spaces a far more enjoyable experience."

Since the passage of New York City's Smoke-Free Air Act in 2002, health authorities have learned that health risks of exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors are similar to the risks indoors within a certain proximity. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and even relatively short periods of breathing the carcinogens and toxins found in secondhand smoke can increase risk of blood clots and lead to more frequent asthma attacks.

On parks and beaches, most discarded cigarette butts end up in the sand or sea, posing health and environmental hazards. Children, in particular, may pick them up, put them in their mouths and risk choking, poisoning or burning themselves. Discarded cigarette butts are an increasing problem worldwide, with an estimated 4.5 trillion tossed aside each year, making them the most littered item on the planet. Cigarette butts are the number one source of beach litter. Studies show they are toxic, slow to decompose, and costly to remove.

Groups from around the city came together to support extending the smoke-free protections including Alianza Dominicana, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association, the American Lung Association in New York, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights," Asian Americans for Equality, Asthma Free School Zone, Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center, Bronx Breathes, Bronx Health Link, Bronx Health REACH, Bronx Pride, Bronx Smoke-free Partnership, Brooklyn Smoke-free Partnership, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Center for a Tobacco Free New York, Chinese-American Planning Council, Community Service Society of New York (CSS), Conference House Alliance, Conference House Park Conservancy, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, Highbridge Community Life Center, Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, Korean Community Services, LGBT Community Center, Manhattan Smoke-free Partnership, Mount Hope Housing, New York Restoration Project, New York City Asthma Partnership, New Yorkers for Parks, Nos Quedamos, NYC Coalition for a Smoke-free City, NYC Parks Advocates, NYPIRG, Parks and Trails NY, Public Health Solutions, Queens Smoke-free Partnership, SI Quits, SOBRO, Sports Foundation, Inc, Staten Island Mental Health Society, Staten Island Smoke-free Partnership, Take Care Staten Island, Throggs Neck Community Partnership, Tompkinsville Restoration Project, Tottenville/Charleston Civic Association and YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood.

The NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City works to raise public awareness of tobacco control issues in New York City. New York City successfully implemented smoke-free workplace legislation in 2002 and already bans smoking in children's playgrounds and public pools, including outdoor pools.

###