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NYC Taking 'Inform On Your Friends' Approach To Outdoor Smoking Ban

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Don't even think of smoking in New York City parks and plazas or you'll get burned.

The city's outdoor smoking ban went into effect Monday, but in one park officials took a "make love not war" approach to banning the butts, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

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At Bryant Park the sign reads "smell flowers not smoke." People who lit up there Monday were handed a flyer with the same message as officials of the privately operated public park took a gentle, 1960s-ish approach to the start the city's outdoor smoking ban.

Smokers were told:

"Are you aware that this is the first day of the new no smoking law? So we'll let you continue today but please don't come back and smoke in the future," said Daniel Biederman, president of Bryant Park Corp.

Make no mistake, the city is serious. Get caught smoking in a park, on beach, in pedestrian mall or a sports stadium and you'll get a $50 ticket, but officials hope calling a cop won't be necessary.

"This will mostly be self enforcement," Biederman said.

You'd think normally aggressive New Yorkers would have no problem telling their neighbors to put it out, right? Wrong.

"This is New York. What? Are you crazy? No, not gonna tell them not to smoke," said Brian Hoke of the Upper West Side.

"I probably wouldn't say anything, but I've never liked smoking in the park. It always bothered me. I usually just get up and move," added Joan Frudden of New Hyde Park.

"I would say something, definitely," said Max Rutten of Gramercy Park. "I would remain very calm and polite."

Audrey Silk, of CLASH -- Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment – said she worries about this self-policing aspect of the ban.

"Citizen on citizen, inform on your neighbor," Silk said. "They're inviting hostile confrontations. I'm not encouraging violence or suggesting it or condoning it, but human nature is when you have confrontation in the street, arguments get heated and things will happen."

Smokers are not taking the public ban lightly. On Saturday they're planning a smoke-in at Brighton Beach.

People are decidedly torn over the legislation.

"It infringes on my rights! Outside? You're not hurting anyone," said smoker Caroline Britt.

"Guess I should put it out, huh?" lamented smoker Mark Gotham.

Others support it.

"I think it's great," said non-smoker Roberta Guerette. "I don't like smoking and I don't like smoke around me."

"I think it's great cause there's nothing worse than when you're walking behind somebody or sitting here in the chairs and the smoke is just billowing into your face," said non-smoker Dave Taylor.

It's part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-smoking initiative that began with banning smoking in all bars and restaurants eight years ago.

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"It's a forced health habit and I think it's great," said smoker Al Cascarina.

Thirty-five states, including New York, ban smoking indoors in places like bars and restaurants, but only Los Angeles and Chicago have tackled the outdoor ban.

This law, however, goes much further by making it illegal to light up in many outdoor places, virtually any place under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Department.

"It's almost like a dictatorship, telling us we can't do that," said smoker Frank Zieran.

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The new law was aimed at drastically reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, but city health officials also want to stop a new generation from picking up the habit.

"I mean, I have a family so I understand why you shouldn't but I also believe in freedoms," said smoker Ahmad el Sayd.

"I feel like everywhere I go, people are outside smoking because they can't be inside, and I have to steer my stroller out of the way of secondhand smoke," said non-smoker Shar Dorfman.

If caught breaking the law, one will be fined anywhere from $50 to $250.

Still, many defiant smokers said they'll take their chances.

"I'm a smoker. That's my choice. It's not going to make me stop," said Zieran.

Does this new law go too far? Sound off in our comments section below…

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