New York’s Outdoor Smoking Ban Bombs

By Dirk Hanson 06/28/11

Attempt to free parks and beaches from smoke called “an absolute joke.”

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Law-abiding New Yorker takes outdoor ban in stride.
Photo via thelmagazine

We had a feeling this might happen. New Yorkers are an independent bunch, and even people who visit New York can be an independent bunch. And as everybody recently strolled the parks, and frolicked on the beaches, and sailed in and out of the marinas—not to mention ambling down the newly pedestrian-friendly Times Square— the fact that a complete ban on smoking in the city’s 1,700 parks and 14 miles of beaches took effect on May 23 has been routinely, dismissively, and contemptuously ignored. 

As the Wall Street Journal gleefully revealed, the first month of the city’s brave new outdoor ban resulted in a grand total of… one ticket, given out of pure exasperation after a newspaper photographer managed to harass Parks and Recreation Department officers into writing him up in order to create a photo op. Caught red-handed in the act of non-enforcement, embarrassed city officials claimed they planned it that way. The lax enforcement, that is. The are currently concentrating on “getting the word out.” Yeah. That’ll work. Ms. Ida Sanoff of Brighton Beach told the Journal that the new law was “an absolute joke,” and said she had seen illegal vendors peddling cigarettes on the beach ever since the ban took effect. “It doesn’t make sense to put a law into place without any way of enforcing it. Why bother?” she said. The original idea was an on-the-spot $50 fine per violation. We’ll see. The city hopes the law will prove to be “self-enforcing,” but as a spokesperson for the NYC Park Advocates said, the idea of self-enforced no smoking is “ridiculous.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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