In 2003, New York City law banned smokers from restaurants and bars in New York City. Last year, on May 23, the smoking restriction was extended to all city parks, beaches and plazas throughout the five boroughs.
If you’re a smoker, in what areas does lighting one up remain legal?
And as a non-smoker, should I really care?
I must admit it — I’m anti-smoke. I have nothing against the smoking population — just don’t smoke cigarettes around me. Subjecting myself to second-hand smoke when I choose not to smoke seems pointless.
Recently on an Indian summer day, I sat outside with my dog at a local pub while working and sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio. (It was Friday and after 5.) Legally, smoking isn’t allowed on sidewalk cafés in NYC, but three smokers sat just a couple of tables away from us.
Although they were standing about 4-5 feet from their actual table as they inhaled and exhaled, they might as well have been sitting at the table because either way, the smoke was blowing directly my way. It began to bother me.
The two cigarette smokers were not even the worst part. The third culprit was a cigar smoker. I’m allergic to cigarettes, but I’m extremely allergic to cigar smoke. I couldn’t help but peck away on my laptop in angst wondering if the aroma would get the best of me and trigger an attack. Should I have complained? Complain about what — a guy smoking a cigar while standing on the corner of 81st Street? I could have, but that would’ve been a waste of time and breath. In the eyes of NYC law, he was doing nothing wrong.
Anyone can stand on any corner in New York City and smoke whatever they want, so as a result, I didn’t take any deep breaths for 30 minutes until he finished that cigar. Obviously, the air outdoors made an otherwise sickening situation tolerable, but still, I was uncomfortable as a paying customer, and if I’d asked him to stop smoking his stogie, he would’ve been uncomfortable as a paying customer. Who has more rights — the cigar smoker or me?
I do have friends who are smokers — or as they call themselves “Casual,” “Occasional,” or “Social.” I assume this makes it seem less life threatening, and removes some of the guilt, unlike terms such as “Heavy” and “Chain.” In my opinion, any way they light it up, it’s still smoking.
Surely, I speak for the non-smokers in New York when I say that it’s a relief to go to dinner or out for a cocktail and not reek of cigarettes by the end of the night. More than anything, as an allergy-sufferer, it’s a pleasure to be in public and avoid a sneezing, coughing, eye-watering episode, which can last well into the next day or two if provoked in the worst way (cigars).
But the question still remains. Many are losing a right that they’ve had for decades. Is it fair?
The positive is that 500,000 stopped smoking in four years in New York City. That’s a half of a million people who could live longer, not to mention the millions of New Yorkers skipping their second-hand smoke.
Let’s face it. Holding that cigarette can look really cool and occasionally glamorous. A butt can complete the picture. Certain stylish and memorable smokers over the years like Mark Twain, James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman, Whoopi Goldberg, and of course the well-known Carrie Bradshaw may have been an influence. The list goes on.
I was one of that influenced group back in the 1980s when it was acceptable to smoke and when everyone wanted to do it. That was long before the thirty-something allergies came into the picture. I even bought a pack of Marlboro Lights 100’s once, but I never could inhale. Lucky for me, I didn’t like it, and that was the end of my smoking story.
At times I feel bad for my smoking friends as they stand outside in the rain, wind, and cold during New York winters, and I have yet to tell them. They’re saving millions of other New Yorkers, me included, by smoking elsewhere. I do appreciate their courteous behavior.
I ask them to quit and they say that one day they will. I hope they do.