Bloomberg Offers Cash to Community Groups Who Convince Buildings to Go Smoke Free

Those were the days: Pianist Willie "the Lion" Smith smoking in his NYC apartment in 1947.

Those were the days: Pianist Willie “the Lion” Smith smoking in his NYC apartment in 1947. (NPR)

It’s been a few months since we’ve heard anything about Mayor Bloomberg’s war on smoking, so we should have known that something was brewing. Especially since our health czar had uncharacteristically long spell of down time—the soda ban passed in September—in his crusade to force New Yorkers to lead healthier lives.

Well, The New York Post reports that Mr. Bloomberg has been planning a secret assault on smoking this whole time. Well, sort of. He’s offering community groups who convince buildings to go smoke-free a $10,000 thank-you, to be paid out by a Centers for Disease Control grant.

Community groups will have to work pretty hard for the money: to collect the windfall, they’ll need to convince at least two multi-unit buildings with a minimum of 30 units each to adopt smoke-free policies.

The plan comes on the heels of Bloomberg’s push this spring to force residential buildings to disclose their smoking policies and procedures to potential buyers and renters. At the time, Bloomberg insisted that he had no intention to institute an outright ban.

“Smoking kills and people have the right to know if they are going to be exposed to secondhand smoke,” the Mayor said in a statement at the time, telling worried smokers that the legislation would just allow people to know if they were being exposed to the deadly fumes from neighboring apartments, balconies, rooftops, courtyards or within 15 feet of the building’s entrance.

Of course, this new initiative wouldn’t be the Bloomberg administration enforcing an all-out ban, it’s just the Bloomberg administration encouraging buildings to ban smoking. Via cash incentives.

Naturally, news of the administration’s stealthy push has angered smokers, who rightly ask where, if not in their homes, will they be able to smoke? Certainly not in parks, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, office buildings or within 15 feet of many/most building entrances. Will they be reduced to smoking in the middle of the sidewalk? Will they need to buy cars to use as smoking pods? Secret smoking clubs? The desolate warehouse filled streets of Bushwick?

“They are liars!” Audrey Silk, smoking advocate and founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment told the Post. “They acclimate the public to a ban, and then they go after the final frontier of our freedom—our homes!”

The Bloomberg administration insists that it’s just funding education programs. With specific quotas. And cash rewards.

kvelsey@observer.com