At the Park, A Smoking Ban Expands

DSC00818Stephen Rex Brown Damaso Vigo takes a defiant puff.

As you probably heard, smoking is now banned in city parks and beaches. The Local stopped by Tompkins Square Park to see if East Village smokers were following the letter of the law.

The first thing we saw upon entering the park at St. Marks Place? That’s right, a smoking scofflaw.

“You can’t even smoke in the park? Then where you going to smoke?” said Damaso Vigo, in between puffs of a Tiparillo Mild cigar. “It’s a stupid thing.”

The new law was hailed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as an important measure to protect locals’ lungs.

“The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, whether you’re indoors or out, hurts your health,” the mayor said in a statement. “Today, we’re doing something about it.”

But even some non-smokers in Tompkins Square Park were uneasy with the nix on nicotine in parks.

“Controlling outdoor activities to that degree is a scary idea,” said Bridgette O’Leary, another parkgoer. “But at the same time, making smoking more difficult is for the betterment of all.”

Still, it’s unclear how — or if — the new law will be enforced.

Mr. Bloomberg said last week that the police will not dole out smoking tickets. Instead, the thinking is that “public pressure” will lead to the change in smoking habits.

DSC00820Stephen Rex Brown Of the ban, Mr. Vigo said: “It’s a stupid thing.”

But there wasn’t much pressure on Mr. Vigo on Monday. As he bashed the new law and took long drags off of his cigar, a pair of police officers walked by, completely unconcerned with his cloud of smoke.

“I’ve seen ‘no smoking’ signs at two other parks, too, but nobody has bothered me,” Mr. Vigo said.

One smoker, Garrett Rosso, acknowledged that he complied with the law once he remembered that the measure took effect today.

“I was just smoking, and then I realized today was the day, so I put out my cigarette,” Mr. Rosso said, adding, “You know what rubs me the wrong way? It’s the culture police telling us what to do.”

But there could be a silver lining to the ban, Mr. Rosso said, adding, “I’m ambivalent, because ultimately I want to quit smoking.”

All that talk of cigarettes did have an effect, though.

Mr. Rosso joked to his friend, “God, I want a cigarette.”