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Smoking Ban in NYC

If you ask me what my pet peeve is, I will say people who smoke while walking.
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I live in New York City and people smoking and walking on the sidewalk grosses me out.  Not only is the smoke on my clothes but the smell of smoke is intoxicating. I cannot stand it!  I always have to fan the smoke out of my face and start coughing.  I do not want poison inside my lungs.   I feel the sidewalk is shared space and what the smoker inhales is what I inhale too. Is it just me or are there many more smokers out there now?  I understand people are stressed but there are other stress relievers other than smoking like yoga, meditation, or exercising.

I am a registered nurse and this post is not about getting smokers to quit or lecturing them about getting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung cancer. Smokers know smoking is bad for their health and is a bad habit.  I am writing this post to let smokers be aware, mindful, and courteous that there are other people walking on the New York sidewalks as well:  babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.   Smoking in public affects everyone’s body.   Is smoking so much of a habit that smokers light up mindlessly?  I see it everyday when I commute to work. People of all ages lighting up and puffing smoke into the air. When I see an envelope of smoke in front of me, I usually walk the other way.  Now, I am not being a snob or a goody-two shoes.   I just don’t want to pollute the air, environment, or my own lungs anymore than it is already.

I was in Philadelphia last weekend with my significant other.  My friend met us at the bus station.  She explained how 9/11 is a tough time for her since she lost seven of her former colleagues.  As she talked to us, she pulled out a cigarette, lit up and started smoking, not asking us if it was okay if she smoked around us.  I noticed she was not really aware that the smoke is traveling to other people, (actually the smoke went right into someone’s face and she did not look pleased) until we told her.   I wondered that day if all smokers are like her, unaware that smoke bothers people.  But, I know that is not true since I have a friend who does not smoke around me, knowing it makes me uncomfortable.

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I was happy to hear on the news a few days ago Mayor Bloomberg proposed a bill that will ban smoking in beaches , parks, and pedestrian plazas in New York.  The beaches include the Water Taxi Beach, Coney Island, Rockaway Beach or Brighton Beach;  parks like The Highline or Central Park; boardwalks such as Coney Island and pedestrian plazas like Times Square or Herald Square.  Cops and park police can fine smokers from $50 to $250 if caught smoking on the beach, park or pedestrian plaza.

The law is designed not only to improve the appearance of the public space; 75% of trash in beaches is tobacco related, but to improve public health; 7,500 New Yorkers die a year from smoking related diseases (AM New York, pg 3).  These are alarming statistics.

I hope this bill passes.  At least I know where I can go if I want a smoke-free environment without having to cough or inhale deadly gases.   I think this bill is good enough for now; hopefully in the future Mayor Bloomberg will work on a bill banning smokers from smoking as they walk on the sidewalk, which will make non-smokers, like me happy.  New York banned smoking from restaurants and bars in 2003.  Beaches and parks are the next step.  I can only hope what the future brings for public smoking in New York City.

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