By Grace Whitney
Second-hand smoke in New York is said to be the number one cause of preventable death in the city. It is no secret that New Yorkers are exposed to more smoke than many others in the country.
A 2009 study by the New York University School of Law actually solidified the fact: New Yorkers are exposed to more secondhand smoke than the rest of the U.S. The study found that though New Yorkers smoke less per capita than the rest of the country (only 23 percent compared to almost 30 percent nationwide), nonsmokers in NYC had a significantly higher level of serum cotanine, a second-hand smoke chemical, than the rest of the United States. “Unexpectedly,” the report said, “a greater proportion of NYC adults are exposed to SHS than are adults nationally, despite lower levels of smoking.”
The study cites possible causes being the socioeconomic make-up of the city, misrepresentation of data, intense urban development, etc. However, the solution to the problem remained elusive.
As of late January, however, the City Council of New York has taken a decided step towards cleaner air for nonsmokers in the city. An overwhelming vote by the Council ushered in a new bill that will ultimately ban smoking in New York public parks. The impact of this ban on smoking with extend to over 1,700 city parks and 14 miles of city beaches.
The ban, however, won’t be enforced by the NYPD. Though there is a penalty fine of up to $50 for those caught lighting up in prohibited areas, Mayor Bloomberg is asking New Yorkers to police themselves.
“We expect that this will be primarily self-enforcing,” said Jessica Scaparotti, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, indicating that the ban will rely more on social pressure than actual enforcement.
Though this is just one of many steps the city has taken to prevent smoking in recent years, including the prevention of smoking in buildings and bars, higher taxes on cigarettes, etc. This strikes many as a step too far.
The ban will come into affect in approximately one month, after Mayor Bloomberg signs it into law as he is expected to do, leaving smokers around the city facing the upcoming summer unable to smoke in parks.