Smokers beware! As of May 23rd, smoking has been banned from pedestrian plazas, beaches and over 1700 parks in the state of New York. This comes as a major blow to those looking to light up, but not because of the financial ramifications. The $50 fee that has been attached to violation of smoking in a pedestrian plaza seems more of a slap in the face to New Yorkers, and less of a deterrent. While some find the fee quite steep, others see the moral implications to be far more expensive. The fine itself is not what makes smokers angry, it’s the idea of limiting their freedom that has them marching in the streets and planning “Smoke-Ins” (much like a sit-in, but instead its…well, you get it). The actual text of the bill reads as such:
Smoking is prohibited in the following outdoor areas of public
places, except as otherwise restricted in accordance with the provisions
1.Outdoor dining areas of restaurants with no roof or other ceiling enclosure;
2.Outdoor seating or viewing areas of open-air motion picture
presentations or open-air concert, stage, dance, lecture or recital presentations or performances or other similar open-air presentations or performances,
3.Outdoor seating or viewing areas of sports arenas and recreational areas,
4.Outdoor areas of all children’s institutions.
6.Hospital grounds, within fifteen feet of any hospital entrance or
exit and within fifteen feet of the entrance to or exit from any
7. Pedestrian plazas.
d. Smoking is prohibited in all indoor and outdoor areas of the
following public places at all times:
1. All public and private pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools
providing instruction for students at or below the twelfth-grade level,
2. All child day care centers
3. Any park or other property under the jurisdiction of the department
of parks and recreation; provided, however, that this paragraph shall
not apply to: (a) the sidewalks immediately adjoining parks, median or mall that is adjacent to vehicular traffic; (c) parking lots; and (d)
It seems as though the New York Police Department feels as ambivalent towards these developments as many smokers, as they have left the enforcement of this law to the Parks and Recreation Department, who have not said anything about “stepping up enforcement” or “cracking down.” The very fact that the law is on the books is more dangerous than the law itself. It typifies a pattern of behavior that is, in the long run, more corrosive to individual freedoms than any single law or statute ever could be.
This isn’t the first time that New York lawmakers have decided that they know what’s best for state residents. Three years ago, New York City restaurants were unilaterally forced to discontinue the use of trans-fats in all food. While that may not seem like a staggeringly important piece of legislation, it opened the door for New York state governments to make law-based judgment calls on the day-to-day health of its citizens.
New York smoking fines already range from $100 for a first offence to $2000 for a third. These fines are only given out to those smoking in public transportation areas, retail stores, hospitals, etc., but the new laws seem like another state-sponsored money- grab to many. While the new ordinance isn’t nearly as draconian and oppressive as California’s pending legislation, many New Yorker’s fear the slippery slope that is often associated with smoking laws. Too often states will take cues from others concerning successful legislation and the implementation of it in new areas. It just so happens that, because of the demonization of tobacco (more specifically the Tobacco Industry) in the last few decades, tobacco bans are easy to get signed into law. Emotions run high and rights get left in the dust.
This Article was contributed by one of our feature guest reporters Alex Haler, a distinguished Broadcast Journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Broadcast Journalism at ASU.