The new smoking ban imposed in all New York parks, playgrounds and along 14 miles of public beaches was challenged last Saturday by a crowd of smokers lighting up along a section of Brighton Beach Boardwalk near Brighton 6th street.
In an irreverent show of civil-disobedience these smoking enthusiasts, leg by CLASH, Citizens Against Smoker Harassment, smoked freely for 90 minutes, during which time no Park Police approached, let alone issued a ticket.
Howard Yourow was at the demonstration declaring the smoking ban illegal and against the US Constitution.
Wearing a pin which said “I smoke and I vote” Mr. Yourow slowly cut off the tip of his Dominican “Punch” cigar while siting his point of view.
“Here we are, the great outdoors, the beach and the huge sky,” he said while barefoot. “For them to ban smoking in the great outdoors is an overreach of power.”
All Puffed Up
Yourow then placed his cigar, a pipe and a cigarette into his mouth, simultaneously.
The new law, which was passed by the City Council last February, levies a $50 fine on all those who smoke in one of 1,700 city parks and playgrounds as well as on city beaches. NYPD police are not authorized to hand out the fine to violators, only Park Enforcement officers are bestowed with such power. The law just went into effect this week, and is being tested by protests like this one in Brighton Beach.
“Park Enforcement officers … do have the ability to issue summonses to those who do not comply with the parks rules, and when possible will educate and advise before taking further action when overseeing compliance,” a Parks spokesperson said.
Its About Freedom
The founder of CLASH, Audrey Silk, has been complaining about smoking bans since the first ones were enacted by then Governor George Pataki with the cigarette tax hike in 1999.
“[Politicians] have preferred to rescind our civil liberties rather than advise the public to walk away,” Silk said. “What a tyranny we’re living under that they make these decisions on a whim? We smoked before the ban; we’re going to smoke after the ban.”