May 23rd, 2011
As of today, smoking is prohibited from parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas (e.g., Times Square). The law will be primarily enforced by signs and social pressures, although park officials may also fine the smoker $50 per violation.
Is the ban constitutional? The smokers’ rights group C.L.A.S.H. filed a lawsuit in 2003 challenging the constitutionality of the bar/restaurant smoking ban. The court held that the City’s basis for the ban – protecting citizens from second hand smoke – was a sufficient rational basis to withstand the constitutional challenges (Court Decision). This new ban, however, dictates behavior in public spaces.
Smokers have spoken out against this new ban. Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of ABC’s “The View” made a statement against the ban during the show’s Feb. 3 broadcast: “There should be a designated place, and I’m tired of being treated like some damn criminal. If they’re really worried about the smell in the air, give us electric buses, give us electric cars, and then I’ll understand.”
I remember when smoking was banned in bars and restaurants in New York in 2002. Prior to the ban, it was pretty disgusting coming home at night with my hair and clothes reeking of cigarette smoke. Now I can have my Central Park picnics in smoke-free peace.