New York parks officials Monday announced tougher rules for smoking that would ban it around picnic pavilions, tennis courts and other games sites statewide -- as well as in all public areas of four Long Island park preserves.
On the Island, smoking is already banned indoors at all parks, in and immediately around swimming pools and at Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre, according to Ronald Foley, regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The expanded regulations, which will take effect in several weeks after signs are posted, ban smoking at all public areas in the park preserves: Connetquot River, Caleb Smith, Caumsett and Hallock.
It is also banned within 50 feet of the entrance to any building, at playgrounds and picnic pavilions and the areas 50 feet around them, and the Jones Beach Bandshell and 50 feet from its entrances.
Smoking is now prohibited at all tennis courts statewide, at the miniature golf, paddle tennis, shuffleboard and other games areas at Jones Beach, and at volleyball courts at Jones Beach and Robert Moses state parks. It is also prohibited at concession areas in open areas if within 50 feet of a building entrance.
"State parks and historic sites should be healthy and clean places for our visitors, especially our youngest guests," said state parks commissioner Rose Harvey. "It makes sense to ensure all visitors have a place to go in our parks to enjoy fresh air, while also protecting children playing at our pools and playgrounds from the dangers of secondhand smoke and reducing litter from discarded cigarette butts."
Smoking will continue to be allowed outdoors in many areas of most parks, such as campsites.
"While we want to respect everyone's freedom to recreate and enjoy themselves, we also have to take the public health in consideration," said Bryan Erwin, chairman of the Long Island State Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission. "In this case it's sort of a no-brainer." Erwin said there might be some backlash from smokers, "but in 2012 we've moved to a place that we have to realize that public health far outweighs those concerns."
Robin Dropkin, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Parks & Trails New York, said, "We're all for it. This goes along with parks being places for healthy activities. New York City has done it and it's been pretty successful." She said the new rules have been in effect for several years at Albany-area state parks and worked well there.
The American Lung Association in New York applauded the change. The organization said "the new smokefree policy comes at a critical time because the need for protection from secondhand smoke in public places has never been more clear. An estimated 2,500 state residents continue to die as a result of secondhand smoke exposure every year."