Opinion Brief

Should New York ban smoking outside?

The city wants to make it even harder for New Yorkers to light up outdoors. Is this a good idea or overkill?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week announced a proposal that would ban smoking in crowded sections of parks, on beaches, and other public outdoor areas. New York is already notoriously inhospitable to smokers; the city instituted a pioneering ban on smoking in bars in 2003, and boasts the highest cigarette prices in the country — $11 a pack — thanks to local and state taxes. But do the new restrictions go too far? (Watch a debate on the subject from Fox5's GoodDay New York.)

Yes, the mayor is trampling smokers' rights: New York's "nanny in chief" is at it again, says John Stossel at Fox Business, enforcing the "tyranny of the majority." Bloomberg insists smoking is a public-health hazard, but "the science" doesn't back him up. Studies suggest "secondhand smoke may be dangerous for people who are stuck with chain smokers for years in claustrophobic situations like homes and cars." But "being on the sidewalk with someone puffing away" isn't going to hurt you."Butt out, Bloomberg"

Saving lives is worth the inconvenience: The "ex-smoker in me" instinctively feels "the ban is a tad draconian," says Brian Merchant at TreeHugger, but "I know logically that only good will come from this." There will be fewer cigarettes sold, "healthier people, some ecosystems spared." There's just no great argument against this — discouraging smoking can "save lives," and any inconvenience to those already addicted is just a "minor toll of progress.""New York City to ban smoking in parks and beaches"

Bloomberg can't enforce this ban, and he knows it: Bloomberg's "tired, but very true" rationale makes sense, says Laura Kusisto at The New York Observer. But this law essentially "makes smoking outside completely forbidden" in New York City. A year ago Bloomberg himself said enforcing such a ban "may not be logistically possible," and he was absolutely right. "Soon, you won't be able to smoke outside either"

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