The city will begin enforcing its sweeping prohibition on public puffing on Monday — but smokers say they’d rather fight than switch.
Dozens of Marlboro men and women across the borough say they’ll openly flout Mayor Bloomberg’s Smoke Free Air Act, which passed in February and goes into effect on May 23.
The new law bans lighting up in public parks, beaches, the Boardwalk and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where it will soon be illegal to smoke and walk — or risk a $50 fine.
“It’s so unfair because we’re paying $12 or $13 a pack for cigarettes and now there’s nowhere to smoke them,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Leor Hadar as he puffed away on the Boardwalk on Sunday. “But I’ll take the risk and still smoke in public.”
Bloomberg has been pushing the law, highlighting the alleged dangers of secondhand smoke, namely that even brief exposure to outdoor cigarette smoke can lead to more-frequent asthma attacks in children with the condition, and respiratory ailments in otherwise healthy adults.
City data claim that 7,500 New Yorkers die each year from cigarette smoke, and more than half of non-smokers have elevated levels of a nicotine by-product in their blood.
“The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke — whether you’re indoors or out — hurts your health,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
But smokers say that they’re not the biggest offenders.
“This is bulls—t,” said Boerum Hill resident Addy Fox. “Should we outlaw cabs, buses and everything else that admits exhausts and fills our lungs with crap? There are plenty of things that do that.”
Other smokers said that the city shouldn’t force them to quit, especially in public, outdoor places.
“In a small park, you always have the choice to walk away from a smoker,” said Downtown resident Josh Black.
And further complicating matters, smoking is not banned on state park property — meaning that tobacco users can puff away at East River State Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park if the urge arises.
Fueling some of the latest outrage is the overt hostility of Bloomberg, a former smoker himself, to today’s puffers.
In 2002, the mayor dramatically raised taxes on tobacco from $0.08 to $1.50 per pack. The next year, he successfully drove cigarettes from restaurants.
And last year, the state, at Bloomberg’s urging, hiked its own butt tax, slapping an extra $1.60 per pack, raising the price of 20 cigarettes to $14 in some places.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg the philanthropist has donated hundreds of millions to anti-smoking campaigns nationwide.
The problem is, many smokers doubt that the city will be able to enforce its new law.
Even nonsmoking critics called it “ridiculous” because enforcement will likely require New Yorkers to resort to shaming each other, doling out dirty looks or rating out smokers to passing cops.
But proud Williamsburg smoker Jessica Little called the plan just plain “dumb.”
“You live in New York City, there is pollution,” said Little. “Welcome to the city, f–kers!”
©2011 Community News Group
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