Bloomberg’s new smoking ban is impractical

Placing a ban on park and beach smoking, no matter how well-intentioned, is simply too ambitious.

Smokers around New York City have been a target of both politicians and universities this month. About two weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on smoking in all city parks and beaches. Realizing the unrealistic nature of this goal (it would have covered hundreds of parks and 14 miles of beaches), he quickly scaled down his objective to “areas within parks where restricting smoking can protect health.” New York University students have met similar opposition this year, as the university banned smoking in residence hall courtyards. Bloomberg’s proposed ban, while noble, is an impractical solution without any guarantee of results. The ban’s scope is far too large for it to be enforceable, and it brings up the very pertinent issue of personal rights against public health. However, we do agree with NYU’s decision to prohibit smoking in residence hall courtyards. This is a demonstrable health risk and student irritant, and we applaud the university for using its judgment to favor students’ health over all else. The difference between these two bans âÄî other than, obviously, their outright potential for effectiveness and benefit âÄî lies in range. NYU had a specific, focused goal it hoped to achieve with its ban: to alleviate student anguish. And to a large extent, the university has been successful. But placing a ban on park and beach smoking, no matter how well-intentioned, is simply too ambitious. While we realize that the immense debate surrounding Bloomberg’s efforts to discourage smoking is beyond our own scope, we do think his actions serve as valuable examples for cities nationwide hoping to initiate similar legislation. Bloomberg has shown these cities that certain tactics can, to some degree, be successful in discouraging smoking. Concurrently, we think NYU’s response to student outcry may serve as an example for other institutions dealing with their own smoking debates. Some smokers argue that smoking is a personal choice and that no one should infringe upon that choice. That argument is indeed valid, and it points out the ambiguity in the smoking debate as a whole. But we think that when a person’s habit âÄî whether that habit is smoking or something else entirely âÄî interferes with others’ right to health, authoritative intervention may be a necessary tool. But, as Bloomberg’s faulty proposal demonstrates, that intervention must be realistic, respectful of the individual, and have a clear goal and purpose. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Washington Square News at New York University.