The New York City Council approved a measure that prohibits smoking in city parks and on public beaches, The New York Times reported Feb. 2.
After arguments pitting personal liberty against public health, council members overwhelmingly approved the measure 36-12, making it the first major change to the city's smoking regulations since 2002, when smoking was banned in the city's bars and restaurants. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill into law later this month, and it will take effect 90 days after that.
The new regulations will apply to the city's 1,700 parks, 14 miles of public beaches, and public pedestrian malls like Times Square. The only exemption will be for actors producing a show.
“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. He said he was a nonsmoker and a runner.
Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III of Queens said, “Once we pass this, we will next be banning smoking on sidewalks, and then in the cars of people who are driving minors and then in the homes.”
Christine C. Quinn, speaker for the city council, said the new law protected nonsmokers. “Their health and their lives should not be negatively impacted because other people have decided to smoke,” she said.
A 2009 study by the city health department found that 57 percent of adult nonsmoking New Yorkers had recently been exposed to cigarette smoke, compared to a national average of 45 percent.