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NYC expects smoking ban at beaches, parks

New York City officials expect a ban on smoking at beaches and parks to pass in a couple of months, but any effort to snuff cigarette and cigar use on public sidewalks isn't on the radar.

"People do come up to me with that suggestion, but we're taking on a lot already with beaches and parks," City Councilwoman Gale Brewer said Wednesday after learning of the new sidewalk-smoking ban in Great Neck Village. Brewer in September introduced legislation to expand the Smoke Free Air Act to include Central Park, Times Square and other recreational spaces. Outlawing smoking on sidewalks would be nearly impossible to enforce in a large city, said Brewer, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side.

Representatives of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office, the department of health and the NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City also said they are focused on the beach and parks measure.

The proposal, which Brewer expects will go to a vote in two or three months, is the most recent of several anti-smoking initiatives that the city has considered since outlawing smoking in nearly all bars and restaurants in 2002. In 2009 the city banned flavored tobacco sales and smoking within 15 feet of hospital entrances.

Tres Hanley-Millman, an Upper West Side resident who suffers from asthma and tobacco allergies, said the city should follow Great Neck.

"I've even gotten burn marks walking down the sidewalk," she said. "If you live in a crowded, congested city and people are flicking cigarettes, it's bound to happen."

David Goerlitz, a former model for Winston cigarettes and a current member of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, argued that if the city were sincere about public health, it would ban cigarettes outright rather than limiting smokers' rights.

"I need to stand up for the smokers. They know it's bad for them. They're trying to quit. And they don't deserve to be treated like cash cows or sacrificial lambs," said Goerlitz, 60, of Berlin, N.J.

Goerlitz added the city's plans to ban smoking are futile if they can't be properly enforced. "It's like driving with a cell phone. You're not supposed to, but everyone does it," he said.

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