Smokers greeted the latest reduction of their Gotham turf with a mixture of fatalistic compliance and cranky defiance.
Nonsmokers rejoiced. The amended Smoke-Free Air Act that prohibits smoking in city beaches, parks and pedestrian plazas that went into effect yesterday will, they say, give them the courage to speak up and become anti-smoking vigilantes.
The new ban “helps me,” said Tracy Pridgen, 48, an electrician from Crown Heights who would love to quit her 11-year Newport habit. “We should have some restrictions: I don’t smoke in my house,” and the public property newly off limits to puffers, she continued, is “the state’s house."
Mike Clawson, 21, a former forest fire fighter and a fire science student visiting from Rochester, cheered the new regulation for promoting health.
“I wouldn’t have spoken up before, but now I know I can back up a request with a rule,” he said. Clawson plans to take a polite approach, venturing, “’You might not know this, but in this area, smoking is prohibited.’”
“I’ll obey, but it won’t make me stop,” countered John Edward, 31, a Bay Ridge salesman who doesn’t understand why people outdoors can’t simply move to a less smoky place.
Tom Durnik, 31, a restaurant owner entertaining his family from Germany in Times Square, said he used to do exactly that, but now that the legal winds have shifted, the Willimantic, Ct. resident will stand his ground.
Would he ask a smoker to butt out? “It depends on how big he is,” Durnik said with a laugh, but - yeah, probably.
Violators can be given a summons and fined up to $50, but cops seemed to take more of a public-educator approach with bewildered offenders in the Times Square pedestrian plaza.
“I just gave someone a warning,” said a patrolman, who was not authorized to speak to the press. He said he sympathizes with the need to light up, having nicotine addicts in his own family, but “I just don’t want to see it around me. If I do, then I will have to do something about it.” He would issue a summons, he said, should someone issued a warning fail to comply.
The NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene said it is beginning an educational campaign on television, in the subway and in print media to remind smokers that the ban is now in effect.
Daniel Yaeger, 30, of Astoria, stood puffing a cigarette a few feet from the pedestrian plaza on the sidewalk, one of his last bastions of nicotine-rich relaxation. (His girlfriend has asked him not to smoke in the house.) At one time, reminisced the owner of a promotional and marketing firm, “it used to be sexy to smoke.” No more. “I figured the sidewalk is still okay,” he said.