Smokers are running out of places to smoke. For years, smoking bans in North America have targeted mostly indoor places – like restaurants, bars, and office buildings. A new law in New York City has banned smoking in certain outdoor areas – including public parks, beaches, and tourist plazas like Times Square. City health officials say the ban is designed to protect residents from secondhand smoke, which is a leading cause of upper-respiratory diseases and cancer. The law is also meant to reduce litter. Starting this summer, anyone caught smoking in public could face a $50 fine.
However, there are many people who believe this new smoking ban is going too far. Some health experts are unsure if smoking outdoors is even dangerous! For example: Dr. Michael Siegel is a public health expert on the effects of smoking – and he says, unlike indoor smoking, where secondhand smoke gets trapped, it’s very easy to avoid exposure outdoors - by just walking away from a smoker. Also, a recent Stanford University study found that levels of secondhand smoke at parks and beaches are, quote: “negligible.” In fact, researchers said that when you’re outdoors, you’re more likely to inhale pollutants from car exhaust fumes, industrial smokestacks, and household chimneys, than from smokers. That’s why a recent poll found that a-third of New Yorkers believe this new smoking ban isn’t about protecting health, it’s about taking away a smoker’s “right” to smoke. The thinking is that if they get away with banning smoking in public parks, then what’s next. Banning smoking in private homes? Of course, it’s worth repeating here: The U-S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on record saying there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke – no matter where you breathe it.