Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Smoking bans continue in New York City

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spearheaded many affective smoking bans in New York City. And now, he is on the verge of undertaking another one. Mayor Bloomberg is ready to ban smoking in city parks and beaches. The mayor has proven to be a huge advocate of smoking cessation, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money into anti-smoking campaigns. He has already eradicated smoking from public buildings, subways and buses, playgrounds and recreational facilities, and bars and restaurants. Banning smoking in parks and beaches would be taking smoking cessation to the next level- the first ban to affect the outdoor environment.

Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city health commissioner, proposed this bill to Mayor Bloomberg last September for two reasons: secondhand smoke and cigarette butt littering. Secondhand smoke, which is the mixture of smoke coming from the burning end of tobacco products, can affect your health when you breathe in the air. By being outside at a park or beach, you become more susceptible to secondhand smoke. There is also a major litter problem in our city parks and beaches. In May, I participated in Keep America Beautiful's Cigarette Litter Prevention Program where I saw first hand how the amount of cigarette butt litter was affecting Staten Island, which is known as the Borough of Parks due to its abundance of parks. Many people do not realize that cigarette butts make up one third of all litter nationwide. The city has 29,000 acres of parkland and fourteen miles of beaches. This constitutes about 14% of the city's total land area. If this ban is successful, it could be the most comprehensive health measure yet.

I can understand why this ban is necessary for the city. We need to improve the air quality by eliminating secondhand smoke. We need to clean up the environment by getting rid of cigarette butt littering. However, there is some debate about the proposed ban. There are many smokers who enjoy going to the park, sitting on a bench, and puffing away on a cigar or smoking a cigarette. They feel that the secondhand smoke outdoors does not have the same effect as the secondhand smoke in an enclosed area and that the measure may be taking smoking cessation too far. But what about the non-smokers who can still smell the smoke on that park bench? They made the decision not to smoke, so why should they have to breathe in the toxins left behind from a cigarette. Only time will tell to see if Mayor Bloomberg moves forward on this ban. From the way things look, he could be moving in the right direction.