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City Council Approves Ban On Outdoor Smoking

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TWC News: City Council Approves Ban On Outdoor Smoking
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The City Council approved Wednesday a proposal that will make it illegal to smoke at city parks and beaches.

The measure, known as the Smoke Free Air Act, passed 36 to 12.

It will now extend the smoking ban to cover the city’s approximately 14 miles of public beaches and 1,700 parks, including pedestrian plazas like those in Times Square and Herald Square.

The city already prohibits smoking at playgrounds, outdoor sporting events and concerts, as well as at bars and restaurants.

"I believe this bill will not only make New York City healthier, will not only keep New Yorkers alive longer, will not only protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, will be something that is noteworthy not only to the rest of the country but in fact to the rest of the world.

The proposal is designed to protect the public from the hazards of secondhand smoke. But critics of the extension say the law infringes on their rights.

"Whether we like it or not smokers have rights too, they pay taxes and we are harassing them every time we pass laws like this that restrict their right to smoke," said City Councilman Eric Ulrich.

"I've been told that the police department will have nothing to do with enforcement of the bill. My experience and my fear is that they will use this as a pretext to stop our young men of color who they already profile and use this to find some kind of criminal charges to charge them with," said City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez.

While debating the bill, Council members rejected the idea that it's a ploy by the city to raise money. They also say the New York City Police Department will be prohibited from enforcing it.

If someone is caught smoking under the new ban, parks enforcement will be allowed to issue a $50 summons.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill into law.

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