A Breath of Fresh Air Will Have to Suffice for Smokers

The smoking ban in New York City’s parks and beaches goes into effect May 23.
By Bryanna Hampton

Signs at park entrances notify visitors of the newly installed smoking ban. Photo by Bryanna Hampton

MANHATTAN – The new installment of the smoking ban in city parks and beaches went into effect May 23, expanding the Smoke Free Air Act initiated by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, which prohibits smoking indoors and at park playgrounds.

“Our city’s beautiful, cleaner and safer parks and beaches can now be enjoyed by smokers and non-smokers alike,” said City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “We hope that New Yorkers look forward to enjoying New York City’s parks this summer, free of smoke and cigarette butts.”

The ban covering city parks and beaches was announced last September and signed in early 2011. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in a $50 fine. The city has posted signs in parks that read, “Smell Flowers Not Smoke,” gradually notifying citizens about the upcoming ban.

Studies conducted by the city Department of Health revealed more than 7,200 New Yorkers die from cigarettes each year in the form of strokes, lung diseases, heart attacks and cancers.

“It is our hope that smokers, most of whom want to quit, will use this as an opportunity to make a quit attempt and call ‘311’ for help,” Farley added.

311” is the city’s hotline for government services information, but the campaign for city residents to quit smoking has reached social networking sites such as Facebook through NYC Quits.

Laura Brown, left, and her husband, Robert Brown, relax in smoke-free Bryant Park. Photo by Bryanna Hampton

City-dwellers can agree: Fresh air is hard to come by in New York City.

In a city packed with towering skyscrapers, racing taxi cabs and food vendors lining the sidewalks, the best bet for some untainted oxygen is hidden inside a patch of green — the city parks.

Even on a rainy Monday, visitors to Bryant Park in the Theater District made use of its space. Matthew Butram, a new resident of the city, said he sometimes comes to the park to work.

Visitors make their way through Bryant Park on a rainy — but smoke-free — afternoon. Photo by Bryanna Hampton

“It’s almost like an English garden feel,” said Butram of the park. “[The ban] will greatly increase the people who actually use the parks, especially with kids. It’s better for quality of life overall in the parks.”

John Grove, a parks enforcement officer, said he’s already had to tell some Bryant Park visitors to extinguish their cigarettes. Overall, though, Grove said, “They’ve been pretty receptive about it, so for the most part the locals are kind of abiding by it.”

At least one smoker agrees. “Being a smoker myself, I actually enjoy the fact that I can’t smoke in the park because it allows for people to have a peaceful experience,” said Alexandra Bolinder-Gibsand, who visits the park several times a week. “In a park you should just be able to breathe the fresh air.”

Reporter Bryanna Hampton may be reached at bryannahampton@gmail.com.

New Yorkers share their opinion:

Park visitors tell their side of the story:

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