In 2002, New York City passed a law banning smoking in almost all workplaces. The next year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg overcame serious opposition and skepticism to pass a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Now, eight years later, the city has banned smoking in outdoor plazas, in parks and on beaches, leaving smokers and civil libertarians alike to wonder what’s next.
At the press conference before the City Council voted on the ban yesterday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn resolutely refused to discuss where the next ban could come from.
“Today I am very excited about passing this piece of legislation and look forward to heading to the floor to do that today,” Quinn said when asked what might be next.
When pressed if she expected to think of other ways to reduce smoking in the city, Quinn said, “I expect to go to the floor and pass this piece of legislation.”
But anti-smoking advocates point to other cities that are banning smoking in front of buildings, at bus stops and even inside privately-owned apartments as the next legislative frontiers.
“In New York, obviously a ban on smoking around building entrances would obviously come close to banning smoking almost entirely in some parts of the city,” said Russell Sciandra of the American Cancer Society. “There would be challenges to doing it but by far the biggest complaint we hear from people is ‘I am sick of walking in and out of buildings and having to walk through second hand smoke to do it.'”
He added that more people favored a ban on smoking in front of building than favored the restaurant and bar ban in 2003.
Anti-smoking advocates say that despite the health risks to living in the same apartment building, they doubt that there is the political will to pass a law banning smoking in individual homes, but according to Bronson Frick, the associate director of Americans’ for Nonsmokers Rights, municipalities are adding second-hand smoke to the Nuisance Code, which, if New York followed suit, would allow city residents to phone in complaints to 311 about their neighbors smoking much as they do now about loud music or barking dogs.
“People want to have a healthier home environment,”
In several interviews, anti-smoking advocates singled out Mike Bloomberg for praise, noting that after his three terms in office much of the city has gone smoke-free.
When asked about where New York may look to ban smoking next, Joel Spivak of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said, “I am tap dancing here. I don’t where is left.”