Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced plans to ban smoking in some of the Big Apple's most famous outdoor locations, including Central Park, the boardwalk at Coney Island and part of Times Square.
The new rules would forbid smokers from lighting up in all of the city's public parks and beaches, a definition that includes the pedestrian zone of Times Square, where a Camel cigarettes billboard once blew fake smoke rings at passers-by.
The city banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003, a move that faced strong opposition at the time. Now, crowds of smokers are a common sight outside the city's many nightspots.
In July, City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said that smoking was the leading preventable cause of death in America's biggest city, taking the lives of 7,500 New Yorkers ever year. That's more than AIDS, drugs, suicide and homicide combined, The New York Times reported.
"New York is the national leader in creating healthy cities and promoting a healthy lifestyle," said City Council Member Gale A. Brewer, who is introducing the new legislation. "That's why we're pushing to get butts off the beaches."
Opposition to smoking bans can get serious. In 2003, a New York bouncer lost his life after an argument about smoking. The bouncer, Dana Blake, asked a bar patron to put out his smoke. A fight ensued, and Blake was stabbed as he tried to throw them out, The Independent reported.
"It's a senseless murder because of this stupid cigarette law. That's the reason this guy was killed," the victim's brother, Tony Blake, said at the time.