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Smokers Beware! Proposed New York City Smoking Ban Targets Outdoor Facilities

Smokers Beware! Proposed NYC Smoking Ban Targets Outdoor Facilities
(iStockphoto) iStockphoto

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) New Yorkers may be hit with an extension of the city's existing ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. 

PICTURES: Smokers Beware!

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials announced their plans to extend the city's smoking ban to parks, beaches, marinas, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas throughout the city.

This means New York City's smokers - and visiting out-of-town smokers - will have to think wisely of where to take their next drag.

Central Park? Not anymore. The traffic-free pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square? Think again.

Officials said the proposed law is based on evidence that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is deemed as a health risk.

"The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, whether you're indoors or out, hurts your health," Bloomberg said in a statement.

The proposed law still has to go through City Council, but if passed, it will allow the parks department to serve violators with quality-of-life summonses.

What exactly is a "quality-of-life summons?"

It's a minor offense ticket handed over for such transgressions as panhandling and public urination. Fines for smoking out of bounds could reach as much as $250, but authorities say smoking summonses would most likely be around $50.

Audrey Silk, founder of NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, has a different theory on the health risks of outdoor smoking. She claimed that smoke dissipates quickly outdoors, where "there's room for everybody and nobody will be affected."

But according to a May 2007 Stanford University study, a person sitting within three feet of a smoker outdoors can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to indoor levels.

Smoking is already prohibited in some parks facilities, but not in most open recreational areas. Council members plan to introduce the anti-smoking bill Thursday. It must go through committee hearings before the full 51-member council can vote.