Reporting Carol D’Auria
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Smokers have just one message for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council members: butt out of our business.
“We’re outside. We should have freedom to smoke,” City Hall Park smoker Harvey Forbes told CBS 2’s Magee Hickey.
By a vote of 36 to 11 on Wednesday the City Council approved a bill to ban smoking in all city parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas.
“People who have made the decision not to smoke have civil liberties too and their health and their lives should not be negatively impacted because other people have decided to smoke,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
Council members who voted against the ban said they see it as an invasion of individual rights.
“We have this crazy idea that we can change the way people behave. You can’t have salt, you can’t have sugar. Hop on a bicycle because it’s bad to drive your car. It’s ridiculous. What’s next?” said minority whip Eric Ulrich, adding when asked if New York City is becoming a police state, “I think so. It’s a slippery slope.”
There is no constitutional right to smoke in city parks and beaches so smokers have no legal recourse. But civil libertarians like Norman Siegal said the ban is just plan wrong.
“I think we’re moving towards a nanny state where government thinks they know what’s best for its citizens. You can inform, educate and persuade, but don’t take away our freedoms,” Siegal said.
A John Jay College public management professor said he finds it hard to believe secondhand smoke outdoors is harmful.
“What is the documentary evidence that secondhand smoke on the street is bad for you. It’s a tough sell. There’s a lot of air out here, not that much cigarette smoke,” Daniel Feldman said.
The law takes effect 90 days after Mayor Bloomberg signs it. Quinn said she was “very glad” that New York was becoming “a public health city.”
The smoking ban will cover some 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas.
Quinn said in addition to beaches and parks becoming free of secondhand smoke, there would also be less cigarette butts littering beaches.
Agree with the City Council’s decision? Think it’s a violation of your rights? Let us know about it in the comments section below.