Complete ban on smoking in public spaces goes effective in NYC.

On May 23, smoking in any New York City park, beach, or pedestrian mall became illegal. The city council passed the ban last fall by a vote of 36 to 12, rejecting a compromise proposal that small areas remain available to people who wanted to smoke.

Photo taken in Bryant Park, NYC, by Barbara Bottalico
The extension of the New York smoke-free air act is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s biggest clampdown on smoking since he banned the habit from restaurants and bars in 2002. American non-smokes’ rights’ activists very strong, as you can read here. What about the rights of the smokers?

Read also:

James Colgrove, Ronald Bayer, and Kathleen E. Bachynski, Nowhere Left to Hide? The Banishment of Smoking from Public Spaces. NEJM | May 25, 2011



  1. Very interesting Silvia – I’m interested in the idea of “smokers’ rights”. Do we accept that people have a right to pursue an activity that is damaging both to themselves and other people? Do we approach this philosophically, legally or from a public health perspective? Smoking is legal, but there’s a difference between legality and right. People have the right to smoke within their own homes, just as people have the right to listen to incredibly loud music through earphones, but playing loud music in a public space can lead to ASBOs or prosecution.

    I think we’re moving towards a general consensus that smoking is a “bad thing”, and were it not for the huge political and economic influence of the tobacco industry and smokers’ lobbies (plus massive government tax revenues on cigarettes), we might see more widespread action being taken against smoking.

  2. Hi Ben, and thanks for your comment! I agree with you to the extent of banning smoking on public health grounds, i.e. promoting the health of the population. So, if I am smoking in a pub, I am directly affecting -and harming- the other people present in the pub. I agree therefore to the extent of banning smoking in a pub. I agree also to banning smoking in public places if and when it can be shown that my act of smoking is harming other people’s health, when in an open but “secluded” space in which passive smoking can still be harmful. But I do not agree to banning smoking in an open and not secluded space, as parks or beaches, on grounds that smoking is a “bad” model and other people have a right not to see anybody smoking. If the problem is the butts on the beach or on the ground, fine, I would ensure to have policies into effect to keep the ground or beach clear from butts, but if we are slipping towards bad models, then I want my ‘right’ protected not to see many other things, if you know what I mean, and there can be arguments made that it is a bad model to see people drinking in public space (as they were made) or people kissing in the public space, and so on and so forth… Do we want that kind of bans taking place on grounds that other people have a “right” not to be offended? If that is so, then somebody could argue offended by seeing, for instance, somebody kissing in public, or somebody professing his or her own religion in public, or somebody going running with shorts in a park….

  3. If we are going to legislate whether someone can do something to harm their own health we’ll need laws against over eating, alcohol consumption, entering into abusive relationships and other bad habits people have that adversely affects their health. In other words, it isn’t reasonable or right to think you can make laws to control bad habits. Frankly I don’t want my government making laws that limit my right to hurt myself. I don’t smoke or drink but I want the right to do it if I want to. I also want the right to breathe clean air but I don’t have trouble finding clean air in NY so I think this law was unnecessary and is just one more liberty limiting law that needs policing now. We need more rational behavior by reasonable people who police their own actions and fewer laws that attempt to legislate morality.

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