Smoking banned in Babylon town parks

A man smoking outside. (April 5, 2011)

A man smoking outside. (April 5, 2011) (Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

Babylon's town board Tuesday banned smoking and tobacco use in town parks, playgrounds, beaches and ballfields.

After a public hearing drew no speakers, board members unanimously approved the bill, bringing town code in line with anti-smoking laws recently passed in New York City and at least six Long Island municipalities.

The bill cites U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults.

Supervisor Rich Schaffer also cited the nuisance of cigarette litter at the town's free summer concerts in Tanner Park and in the sand at Overlook Beach.

Town safety officers will enforce the law, which carries a fine of up to $250. Smoking is also prohibited within 50 feet of all town buildings open to the public.

Bans in other municipalities have sometimes drawn criticism. Audrey Silk, founder of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said the Babylon measure was "government-approved discrimination."

She said such regulation represents an effort to legislate smokers out of public life. "They are trying to persecute them into forcing them to quit smoking."

Her group sued the state this month, trying to get it to remove outdoor "no smoking" signs at parks, and she advocates smoking in public places as an act of civil disobedience.

Schaffer said he hadn't heard from pro-smokers. "I'm sure there will be some letter I get," he said. "My response will be that 'You don't have the right to inconvenience other people or cause a health issue.' "

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