Statement on NYC Smoke-Free Parks, Beaches, Plazas

Today, New York City Marks the New Frontier for Tobacco Control

Statement from Donald Distasio, CEO of the American Cancer Society of NY & NJ, regarding expanded smoke-free protections to parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas:

This afternoon, New York City reaffirmed that smoke-free parks and beaches are the new standard for healthy living.   New Yorkers will soon have the chance to take their children to the playground or spend an afternoon walking along the beach and breathe clean air.   

It has been said before and it will be said again: there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, not even outdoors.  It is a killer; every year 3,400 people die of lung cancer as a direct result of secondhand smoke.  Laws that prohibit smoking in public places and create smoke-free environments are the most effective approach to prevent exposure to - and harm from - toxic second hand smoke.

The American Cancer Society praises Speaker Quinn, Councilmember Gale Brewer, Chairperson Arroyo and Chairperson Mark-Viverito for this forward-thinking legislation.  This is the new frontier for tobacco control there's no turning back.

Background Information

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a "Group A" known carcinogen placing it in the same category as radon, benzene, and asbestos. Repeated exposure to secondhand smoke has a cumulative negative effect on a person's health.
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 50 of which are known or suspected to cause cancer in humans and animals, and many of which are strong irritants. 
  • Children are easily influenced by adult smoking that they observe in public. Reducing the frequency with which children and teens see adults smoking will have an impact on the risk of young people starting to smoke. Each day 5,000 kids under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. We must always be working to reverse this dangerous trend.
  • Over 200 municipalities in NYS have passed regulations restricting tobacco use in outdoor recreational areas.  Cities including Chicago and Los Angeles have already made their parks smoke free.  Maine & Puerto Rico have made their beaches smokefree. 
  • Nearly 60% of non-smoking New Yorkers show an elevated level of cotinine, a by-product of tobacco use, in their blood.  (higher than the national average)  This shows that our residents have been exposed to second-hand smoke, despite smoking being banned in most indoor locations.  (NYC DOHMH Study)
  • Because their lungs are smaller, children breathe in 50% more air pollution than adults. They are more susceptible to the dangers associated with tobacco smoke even when outdoors.  (EPA)
  • Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter on parks & beaches and puts children, pets and wildlife at risk.  Cigarettes, made of plastic cellulose acetate, may take as much as 18 months to decompose in the environment.
  • Enforcement:  Only the Parks Dept will have the authority to enforce this legislation.  Police will not be involved.  We expect it to be largely self & community enforced, we are creating a new smoke free environment.  Advocates stand ready to help educate the community around this implementation.
  • Penalties: $50 for violation. 

Additional Resources

Fact Sheet on Smoke-Free Parks and more PDF >>>

Fight Back Podcast with Michele Bonan on this proposal >>>



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