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City amps up park smoking tickets

Officers ticketed more than 100 smokers so far this year.

When New York first introduced its ban on smoking in parks and beaches last year, many dismissed the law as lacking teeth, and predicted it would rarely be enforced.

But, it turns out, the Parks Department has begun quietly increasing enforcement of the ban, and has already given out more tickets to those caught smoking in city parks so far this year than it did in all of 2011.

From Memorial Day weekend of 2011, when the city first implemented the ban, to Dec. 31 of last year, the Parks Department gave out 84 summonses. So far this year, parks enforcement patrol officers have given out 108 summonses, according to Parks Department data.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said that most New Yorkers comply with the rule.

"Summonses are issued as a last resort," he said.

Benepe said it's also mostly tourists who are caught lighting up.

"On a few occasions, I have asked people to put out their cigarettes. On all those occasions, the smokers turned out to be visitors to New York City, unfamiliar with the rules, and they were immediately compliant and apologetic," said Benepe.

The City Council's decision to outlaw smoking in parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas came after Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking in restaurants and bars. Earlier this week he introduced a bill that would require building owners to make clear their smoking policies.