Nonprofit Head Questions NYC Commitment to Outdoor Smoking Ban

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May 24, 2011; Source: ABC News | The head of a nonprofit advocacy group thinks New York City is doing little more than blowing hot air about banning smoking in outdoor public spaces. Under a law that went into effect this week, people who smoke in the 43 square miles of parks, public plazas and boardwalks in the city face a $50 fine, along with embarrassment of being ticketed for endangering others with their second-hand smoke.

However, Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to improving urban parks and open spaces, thinks the new law is little more than a smokescreen because he doesn't believe it will be vigorously enforced. Croft told the Associated Press that he thought that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support of the smoking law is little more than playing politics. "He's trying to play both sides: He doesn't want to be perceived as taking away people's rights, and he wants to look good on the health side," said Croft. "But if you don't enforce the law, you might as well not have a law."

A spokesman for the Mayor tried to stamp out Croft's charges by pointing the success of previous bans on smoking inside public places and restaurants for nearly a decade. Marc LaVorgna said police officers don't patrol the city's bars and restaurants, "and I don't see people smoking." He added, "New Yorkers generally follow the law, and we don't believe any crackdown is necessary."

According to the Associated Press, on the first day of the ban, "smoke kept rising in the off-limits zone, despite small anti-smoking signs posted in several spots. The city has said it plans to rely on signs and social pressure instead of active enforcement."—Bruce Trachtenberg