Mayor Bloomberg is considering reviving an ordinance that would ban smoking in all New York City parks, including 843-acre Central Park, according to an article on the local CBS site.
According to the article: "The new measure would widen the current smoking ban – in bars, subways, buildings, playgrounds and other public places – to include some 29,000 acres of park land and 14 miles of beaches. ... New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley proposed the park and beach ban almost a full year ago, and a statement from the mayor’s office Saturday night indicates the issue could soon come off the backburner. “The mayor is seriously considering it. A final decision has not yet been make,” the statement said."
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I think this proposal goes too far. In a place like Central Park, it is not difficult for nonsmokers to avoid smokers because it is so big. The duration of any unavoidable exposure is so small that it is not an issue of public health, but simply of comfort. And for that, I don't see government intrusion as being necessary.
The problem with these broad outdoor smoking bans is that they go beyond the issue of health protection. They go beyond the need to protect nonsmokers from significant exposure to secondhand smoke and instead, what they are protecting the public against is having to see smokers.
This demonstrates, once again, how the public health practice of tobacco control has shifted from a battle against cigarette smoke to a battle against cigarette smokers.
Public health advocates should remember that outdoors is exactly where we want smokers to be smoking. That is actually the way to minimize exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. Eventually, what these policies are going to do is make it impossible for smokers to smoke anywhere except in their own homes. And that would be detrimental to the public's health because it would expose their families - and their children - to the tobacco smoke.
Is it tobacco smoke exposure that we are fighting or is it the smoker? The actions of the New York City Health Commissioner suggests that it is the smoker.