A Puff, A Sigh And A Ban Expands

SMOKING_goldstein2Mark Riffee City Council voted Wednesday to extend the smoking ban to parks and beaches. Jon Goldstein, an East Village tattoo artist, thinks the law was passed in order to make money from fines.

No smoking allowed in New York City’s 1,700 parks or along the city’s 14 miles of beaches, said the City Council on Wednesday. The measure passed by 36-to-12 after a bitter debate over government authority versus individual liberties.

So what do you think, East Village?

“I think it’s ludicrous,” said Jon Goldstein, a 39-year-old tattoo artist. “It’s just a way for them to make money. They can’t tax any more stuff so they just start adding fines. You know what’s going to happen?” he asked, lighting up in Tomkins Square Park while he still can. “The police are going to be so overwhelmed with ticketing people who are smoking and not really paying attention to what they should be paying attention to.”

Jessica Scaperotti, the deputy press secretary for the mayor, said the Council expects the ban on smoking to be largely self-enforcing. The signs at the entrances of parks will alert people that just as it is illegal to litter, drink, or have dogs in certain areas, smoking is now a fineable offense. Fines will not exceed $100, according to Ms. Scaperotti.

The fines don’t bother Jack Tynan, a 45-year-old actor who has lived in the East Village since 1986 and often smokes in Tomkins Square Park, nearly as much as what he said was the Council’s infringement on his personal freedom. “Our liberties are being taken away for false security,” said Mr. Tynan.  “And this is another way that the government is telling us how to live our lives. It’s almost Prohibition-like.”

Ms. Scaperotti said the ban is not an attack on anyone’s personal liberties. It’s about making New York a healthier place for its citizens. “What we’re trying to do is protect people from secondhand smoke,” she said. “The science is very clear. There are harmful health effects from tobacco smoke, particularly with children who suffer from asthma. If you’re someone who’s going to a beach or going to a park to get some fresh air and to exercise, we want you to be able to do that.”

SMOKING_phoneguy3Mark Riffee City officials say that the fines for smoking in parks and beaches will not exceed $100.

Deeva Green, 21, who recently worked for a recycling company called TerraCycle, agrees.  “You want to be able to take a bit of sun without a cigarette in your face,” she said. “I find it incredibly selfish when I get secondhand smoke. I don’t think [the ban] is infringing upon anyone’s rights.”

As long as the Council doesn’t extend the law to private spaces, Benjamin Binsfeld, a 33-year-old watchmaker in the East Village, thinks the ban is a good idea. “I don’t have a problem with it,” said the occasional smoker, “as long as they’re not going to get crazy to the point where they say you can’t smoke in your car or your apartment anymore.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has 20 days from Wednesday to sign the measure, which will then go into effect 90 days later, said Ms. Scaperotti, who added: “Just in time for this year’s beach season.”

Join the conversation: Do you think that the expansion of the smoking ban is justified?