Smoking to Get Banned in New York Parks

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to cut New York City’s smoking rate to 12 percent of the populace by 2012 and may make parks and beaches smoke-free as his administration extends a 10-part public health campaign.

The percentage of adults who smoke fell to 16.9 percent in 2007 from 21.5 percent in 2002, the year Bloomberg won passage of a smoking ban that extends to bars and restaurants. The city’s “Take Care New York” health goals, first introduced in 2004, sought to reduce the rate to 18 percent by 2008.

Among the proposals in Take Care New York 2012 is an expansion of the ban to cover facilities overseen by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We have to continue to move the goals to even higher levels,” Bloomberg said in an address at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan today.

City officials haven’t yet devised “a specific strategy for reducing smoking in parks,” said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The idea is being floated as part of efforts to keep people as free from involuntary exposure to smoke as possible, she said.

The city’s health policy also seeks to curtail preventable hospital visits, reduce teen pregnancy, boost regular condom use, increase colorectal cancer screening and cut consumption of sugary beverages. The plan, which will track progress with 10 health indicators, focuses especially on narrowing disparities among racial and socioeconomic groups and establishing lifelong healthy habits among children, Bloomberg said, Bloomberg reports.

It was also reported, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced yesterday he wants to ban smoking in public parks and city beaches as part of a plan to make New Yorkers healthier.

"We don't think children, parents, when they're standing at soccer games, should have to be breathing in smoke from the person next to them," Farley said after unveiling the city's 10-point plan alongside Mayor Bloomberg.

"We don't think our children should have to be watching someone smoke."

The city could outlaw puffing in parks through legislation passed by the City Council or an administrative rule change by the Parks Department, Farley said.

The mayor said his anti-smoking agenda includes glaring, "with not a particularly nice look," at smokers gathered outside buildings.

"Social pressure really does work," said Bloomberg, himself a former smoker.

In July, he cast doubt on whether a ban in parks would succeed.

"It would be harder to do, harder to build a consensus, and, generally, I don't think that, you know, we could get it done," he told a caller to his weekly radio show.

His spokesman, Jason Post, said a ban across thousands of acres may be logistically impossible.

"But there may be areas within parks where restricting smoking can protect health," Post said. "We will continue to explore this."

Other cities, counties and states, including in Utah, Louisiana, Maine and California, have banned smoking in parks, New York Post reports.

In the meantime, smokers in City Hall Park on Monday were not alarmed by the idea. Some said they had been expecting it.

"I understand that — it's respect for people who don't smoke," said Maria Rodriguez, a student taking a smoking break on a park bench. "I wouldn't really care."

"It wouldn't be the greatest hardship of my life," said Andrew Moreno, who smoked an American Spirit cigarette while on a lunch break. "Am I happy about it? No. But can I understand it? Yes," the Associated Press reports.

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