We were disappointed to learn that on October 8, a New York State Supreme Court judge struck down regulations from the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) that restricted tobacco use in state parks and playgrounds. In his ruling, the judge said that he was not expressing an opinion on the wisdom of the regulation, but that OPRHP just did not have the authority to make the regulation.
We applaud Governor Cuomo for recently signing a law banning smoking in outdoor playgrounds from sunrise to sunset. New York City’s parks and playgrounds have been smoke-free since 2011. Now children across the State can breathe easy while they’re playing on jungle gyms, slides and swings.
Summer is here and New York families are flocking to our city’s parks and beaches.
Smoke-free parks and beaches in New York are now the norm. The old norm was smoke-free bars and restaurants. And before that, the old norm was smoke-filled airplanes. Can you imagine that? While Big Tobacco and its supporters warned at every step that Bloomberg was creating a so-called “nanny state” when he first introduced smoke-free bars and restaurants, our mayor’s regulations have become self-enforcing social norms, and it is hard to remember now that they were controversial when first proposed. And social norms in many other cities, states and countries have followed suit.
Population-based policyeffects social change, which then becomes the norm.
Before any tobacco control legislation is passed, education and advocacy are necessary. Why, you ask? The math is simple. Big Tobacco spends millions opposing good common sense public health policy or price increases, and fighting legislation in the courts. Most recently, Proposition 29, which would increase a pack of cigarettes in California by a $1.00 in California, was ultimately defeated by a very narrow margin because voters were bombarded by the tobacco industry’s relentless ads that misrepresented the proposed tax. Big Tobacco spent almost $50 million to defeat Proposition 29, and it worked. Our work in the community educates voters so they are not so easily swayed by Big Tobacco’s unhealthy agenda and propaganda.
Now that the New York State Legislative’s 2012 session is over, we applaud the efforts of our champions at the state house. In particular, I want to applaud State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-Bronx) and Assembly Member Jeff Donowitz (D-Bronx) who passed a bill in both the at the State State Senate and State Assembly that would limit NYC children’s exposure to secondhand smoke by extending prohibiting smoking within 100 feet of school entrances and exits. Our youth have the right to breathe clean air where they learn.
As we wait for the final vote count on Proposition 29, a measure that would add a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes in California, we know that price increases are a proven way to bring down smoking rates. In fact, it is such an effective strategy, that even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong are supporting the initiative. Not surprisingly, Big Tobacco has spent almost $48 million in California to “interfere” with the $1 tax measure. We hope they do not win, but if they do, we will continue our fight to protect youth from smoking.