Thanks to the work of a NYC-based smokers' rights advocacy group, smokers across the state will after all be able to light up in New York state parks, beaches, and pools this summer.
Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended a smoking ban this week, originally enacted in April, after encountering some unforeseen opposition. From The New York Daily News:
Officials were forced to shelve the restrictions after the city-based group Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) filed formal objections to the policy.
The objections require the state to draft a response and hold a lengthy public comment period before the smoking restrictions can be implemented. The process could last for months, and a lawsuit is likely.
Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, confirmed the state will not be handing out tickets — but will leave the signs in place — until that process concludes.
That's right, smokers can ignore all that signage prematurely posted by park rangers, and pleasurably puff away under the summer sun.
"Apparently the crusade against smokers to date has so emboldened government that the rule of law no longer need be practiced when it comes to its citizens that choose to smoke," said Audrey Silk, president of C.L.A.S.H., a HuffPost blogger, and urban tobacco farmer.
And of the signs, which tell New Yorkers smoking is prohibited, Silk said, "There is only one way for the public to interpret this language. There's nothing to imply that the 'prohibition" is unenforceable, which it now clearly is.
"The Office of Parks' behavior goes from bad to worse - from at least the facade of official policy-making to settling for simply fooling people with unofficial signs."
The Parks Department, however, doesn't seem to fussed about C.L.A.S.H.'s intervention. A rep from the Department told Gothamist, "The restrictions remain in effect. We're deferring issuing tickets for a couple of months during which we are extending public comment period. First we need to submit a regulatory impact statement. We did this through a consensus rule, in which we didn't anticipate controversy, but because we got comments from this group C.L.A.S.H., we're doing this through the old rule-making process. But we're still asking people not to smoke where there are signs designating smoke-free areas."
Additionally, when the ban does go into place, smokers could face a $250 fine which, to a New York City smoker, is worth about 20 packs of cigarettes.
Of course, here in the Big Apple, we're already not allowed to smoke in parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas.
And although Mayor Bloomberg initially insisted his ban wouldn't be enforced, as of April 18, 2012, 108 summonses had been issued to people smoking in parks this year, a stark rise from the meager 84 tickets issued from last May through the end of 2011. In the first month of the ban, only one ticket was issued. Tickets can cost a smoker up to $300, a number 6 times greater than previously made public.