New York City: More Places Not To Smoke

May 25, 2011, 7:22 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, New York City is banning cigarettes from most outdoor locations including public beaches, sports stadiums and parks. A release from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene explains why: “Studies suggest that sitting three feet away from a smoker outdoors can expose you to the same level of second-hand smoke as if you were sitting indoors.”

The release adds that second-hand smoke can trigger asthma attacks, increase the risk of blood clots and damage blood vessels and that there is no known safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The expansion builds on previous efforts by the City to reduce smoking:

  • Since 2003, the Health Department has distributed nicotine patches and gum at no cost to approximately 250,000 New York City smokers during its annual giveaway program, enabling an estimated 82,000 of them to quit.
  • The agency's "NYC Quits" Facebook page has become an online smoking cessation support network with more than 6,000 fans.

Susan Kansagra, M.D., M.B.A., New York City’s assistant commissioner for tobacco control, says that although the law includes the possibility of a $50 fine for people who light up in now banned outdoor spots, cities with similar bans including Chicago, San Diego and Los Angeles have found self-enforcement, “and neighbor-enforcement” to be very effective.

>> See Robert Wood Johnson Foundation information on tobacco control.

Weigh In: Have you told someone in a smoke-free zone to put out their cigarette?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.