New York City: Aiming to be a Smoke Free City

Almost everybody knows the dangers of passive smoking, also known as second hand smoking. According to leading scientists and researchers, secondhand smoke produces more particulate-matter pollution (PM pollution) than, believe it or not, an idling low-emission diesel engine. It is a lethal cocktail of chemical compounds, at least 200 of which are poisonous in nature and 69 are said to be carcinogens.

Scientific evidence indicates increased risk of lung cancer among non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. In women, this risk is estimated at 20% in women and 30% in men. It has also been linked to cancer of the nasal sinuses. Among the other troubles that second hand smoke brings with it are risks of heart disease, hardening of the arteries, respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, narrowing of the carotid arteries, and a drop in female fertility.

Keeping all these major health issues in mind, the New York City Council voted in the first week of February to ban smoking in the 1,700 parks of the city as well as the 14 miles of beaches in an effort to make the city a safer and healthier place for non-smokers and children.

Nine years ago, in 2003, a similar ban had been issued on restaurants and bars, about 13,000 of them, and very few exceptions were allowed. Those found breaking the rules had to face stiff fines, with first-time offenses costing as much as $200. Business owners who were caught disobeying the ban faced the risk of being shut down.

If the ban is extended, smokers are going to find themselves severely restricted in their options of lighting up in public. Smoking grounds will definitely be whittled away and as you can imagine, this has caused much chagrin between politicians and people alike. New Yorker George Wells complains grumpily and says, “The city is taking it too far. I think it’s ridiculous.”

Mayor Bloomberg is ecstatic about his victory. “This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts.” However, he has drawn a lot of flak from Council Member Robert Jackson, a stiff opponent of the bill, who believes that it was “going against our liberty” and the move was too “intrusive“.

However, there are undoubtedly a large number of people who will welcome this ban. Growing awareness about fitness and concern for a healthier lifestyle for their children and families is bound to triumph over people’s addiction or fascination with smoking.

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