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NYC Council Bans Outdoor Smoking

If you didn’t see this one coming, you haven’t been paying enough attention. New York City is now one huge step closer to banishing its smoking population altogether—the City Council just approved Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban smoking in outdoor public places. The legislation is expected to take effect 90 days after Mayor Bloomberg signs it.

This sweeping legislation includes Times Square, as well as all public parks and beaches within the five boroughs, which amounts to over 1700 public parks (including Central Park) and over 14 miles of public beaches, according to an article in Cigar Aficionado.

Of nonsmokers, Speaker of City Council Christine Quinn said, “Their health and their lives should not be negatively impacted because other people have decided to smoke.” I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’m pretty sick of these legislators acting like I’m intentionally trying to kill bystanders whenever I smoke in public.

The good news is that the police won’t be responsible for enforcing this ban—according to an article in the New York Times, the enforcement of the law will fall to the Department of Parks and Recreation. So unless Ron Swanson chases after me with a shotgun every time I light up in a park, I’m not particularly worried about enforcement. The city is, however, openly encouraging nonsmokers to police these public spaces and call the authorities when they see a violation, so beware of nannies with cell phones.

More in the way of good news, there also appear to be some nonsmokers on our side, along with a lot of angry smokers. “We’re moving towards a totalitarian society if in fact we’re going to have those kinds of restrictions on New Yorkers,” said Councilman Robert Jackson of Manhattan, who described himself as a marathon runner and nonsmoker.

Cigar Rights of America wasted no time in posting a razor-tongued response to the ban. In a press release, the CRA mentioned that NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, who advocated the legislation, was also involved in a campaign in which tens of thousands of tax dollars were used to produce a brochure on how to safely use heroin.

In the press release, the CRA strongly urges all cigar smokers to write to Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker of City Council Quinn with a simple message—“Parks and beaches belong to all taxpayers.”

The obvious question is how far is this going to go? At present, smoking is still legal on sidewalks and in privately owned businesses where smoking is allowed, like rooftop bars, but how long until New York City goes the way of Great Neck or Omaha?