The city's outdoor smoking ban is now in effect, with smoking is outlawed in city parks, pedestrian plazas, beaches, boardwalks, marinas, public golf courses and sports stadia.
City officials say the new law is expected to be enforced mostly by New Yorkers themselves, who are urged to call 311 if they spot smokers breaking the law.
Violators will face a $50 fine, but only the city's 200 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers can hand out those summonses. Those officers are also putting the emphasis on educating the general public.
In a statement released Monday, Parks Department officials said: "The new smoking ban is a quality of life rule that is primarily self-enforcing. We're counting on all New Yorkers to comply just as they do with other quality of life rules. Parks Enforcement Officers, who ensure quality of life issues in our parks and beaches, do have the ability to issue summonses to those who do not comply with parks rules, and when possible will educate and advise before taking further action when overseeing compliance."
Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, said he feels that the self-enforcement will pay off in the long run.
“For the most part, this is a rule that will have to be self-enforced,” said Farley. “What we’ve found from around the country is that it works that way. Over time, people learn that they should not be smoking in parks or beaches, and the smokers either don’t smoke when they’re there or they go elsewhere.”
Public smoking took its first blow in 2003, when a major indoor smoking ban took effect.
“Now our public spaces will be not only more enjoyable but also healthier, cleaner and more beautiful. We all know that smoking is deadly, but second-hand smoke poses a similarly grave danger to public health. Lowering the rate of second-hand smoke exposure for New Yorkers is an important step toward making our city healthier,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement today.
Some smokers in Times Square's pedestrian plaza were unaware of the new rule.
"I got to get rid of [my cigarette], because I can't afford to be paying $50," said a smoker who learned this morning that she couldn't smoke in the plaza. "I've got to work 10 hours a day, so [that's] 12 hours a day I won't be smoking."
"If you're going to have a smoking ban, at least have a designated area," said a British tourist who was smoking at the plaza.
Many in Times Square said public health will benefit from the law.
"We've got to protect the kids. We've got to protect the children," said a supporter. "It's hard for the people that smoke, but at the same time, I think we've got to start somewhere."
"You inhale second-hand smoke and it's very dangerous. Especially my son, who's suffering asthma," said another.
Yet some said an outdoor ban goes a step too far.
"I'm not a smoker. I don't like it at all, but they have to have some area [where] they can smoke," said an opponent of the law.
Officials say smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and the number of smokers in New York City has decreased 27 percent from 2002 to 2009. In the last decade, the number of smoke-related deaths has also declined by 17 percent.
Smoking is still allowed on city sidewalks and inside public housing.