Smoking will be banned as of Oct. 1 in all city parks, including downtown public areas such as Clinton Square and Columbus Circle. The Common Council voted 7-2 today to impose the ban, and Mayor Stephanie Miner plans to sign it.
Sponsors of the measure, Councilors Bob Dougherty and Khalid Bey, said they delayed implementation until October to give Clinton Square festival organizers time to adapt. Beginning next year, it’s likely that festival-goers will be directed away from Clinton Square onto surrounding streets if they wish to smoke, Bey said.
The fine for violations will be $50, but councilors said they expect police to issue more warnings than tickets. Most of the enforcement likely will occur through “peer pressure,” Dougherty said.
Two councilors opposed the new ban. Councilor-at-Large Helen Hudson, who smokes, said cigarette smoke is an insignificant source of outdoor air pollution.
“Until we can find a way to limit all the toxins that are transmitted throughout our city and throughout our country — by vehicles, buildings, smokestacks — I think it’s a little short-sighted to target cigarette smokers,” Hudson said.
Councilor Chad Ryan, who does not smoke, said he does not think the city should tell people where they can smoke outdoors. “We do you draw the line?” he said.
Bey, an ardent non-smoker who has respiratory problems attributed to second-hand smoke, said the right to smoke should be constrained to limit the effects on non-smokers.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to legislate to cause people to be courteous,” Bey said. “Just as a smoker has a right to smoke, which they do, those who don’t smoke have a right to breathe clean air.”
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