Breathing vs. Smoking in the Park
September 17th, 2009
Anne Schwartz, Gotham Gazette’s parks writer, filed this post.
People interviewed in a New York Times article about the city’s proposed ban on smoking in the parks (and commenting about it online) derided the idea as an extension of the nanny state, an intrusion on individual freedom, harassment of smokers and ridiculous considering the much greater threat posed by car exhaust, among other things.
But if you’ve ever been on a crowded beach or at an outdoor concert next to people continually lighting up, you may be applauding the city’s latest move to force New Yorkers to be healthier — although probably more because of a concern for your own health than for that of the smokers.
As one commenter noted, “It’s not just a preference for me; cigarette smoke is the most powerful trigger of my asthma there is.”
The long-term dangers of second-hand smoke have also been well-documented, and New Yorkers are at greater risk, according to a finding published in April by the city department of health that 57 percent of adult New Yorkers have elevated levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine breakdown indicating exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, compared to 45 percent of adults nationwide.
Cigarette butts contribute to the problem of litter in the parks, especially at the beaches, noted Cheryl Huber, research and planning director at New Yorkers for Parks, which surveys park conditions.
Whatever their view on the proposed parks smoking ban, most people would agree that the likelihood of it being enforced widely is pretty slim, just like the law against taxi drivers talking on cell phones.
As of last February, the city had just 127 city-funded Parks Enforcement Patrol officers to guard against crime and misdemeanors in the entire park system (plus about a hundred more privately funded officers in several Manhattan parks).
Passing a hard-to-enforce law rarely changes peoples’ behavior, but a shift in public opinion does, as happened with seat belt use. Perhaps, then, changing the rules is the first step to making it less acceptable to smoke around other people in the places where New Yorkers go for a breath of fresh air.
.By Gail Robinson on September 17, 2009, 3:31 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health,Parks | 20 Comments »