We’re writing this editorial on the first day of the smoking ban in New York City’s parks, beaches and boardwalks, stadium complexes, pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square and public golf courses. It’s a sad day.
Regardless of your views of smoking, every American should be given pause by this over-reaching new law. Why? It legislates your activity in the great outdoors based on dubious science. If a government entity feels empowered to make this kind of decision by twisting the facts and making spurious claims to justify its actions, you must ask yourself where does it stop. Sound dramatic? You heard it here first.
In writing the new law, the New York City Council cited a Stanford study which said “under certain conditions” Outdoor Tobacco Smoke (OTS) could present a hazard to non-smokers. The council chose to ignore the specific “conditions” where OTS might present a risk. It’s worth repeating what the study said: to experience the kind of exposure you would find in a closed room where smoking is occurring, you would have to be downwind and within 18 inches of the smoker. Six feet downwind? Almost zero exposure. Upwind? Almost zero concentration of smoke particulates. The council has also talked about cigarette butt litter as another reason for the new law; there are already littering laws on the books. It’s like banning driving to cut down on speeding violators.
Make no mistake about this law. It is another step on the path toward a total Prohibition of tobacco, or at the very least, a practical prohibition on smoking. The anti-tobacco crusaders are nibbling away at the few remaining places where you can smoke. And they will keep looking for ways to break down whatever smoking privileges remain.
They’ve gotten the ear of the Food and Drug Administration too. There’s a regulation under consideration to include cigars in its tobacco oversight duties that it was given in 2004; cigars were exempt in the original regulation. What would it do? Among other things, it would prohibit customers from selecting their own cigars, essentially doing away with the walk-in humidors in cigar shops across the country. And, it could impose onerous new sanctions, by requiring huge warning labels on every box. But there’s a house bill, HR1639, that would continue the exemption from FDA oversight for premium handrolled cigars. You can help by writing your Congressman or Senator in support of that law. Find their address, or e-mail at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
New York’s law was pushed through by anti-tobacco zealots despite the best efforts of consumers and the cigar trade here. You can help stop the push for further restrictions on cigars and cigar shops at the federal level. Don’t let New York’s sad day spread to your hometown.