I always thought of America as the place where personal choice and individual freedom where held in high esteem. Where informed discussion was preferred to berating and banning. Where politeness won out over prohibition. Where they chose discourse over directives.
Well that was then and this is now. In New York anyway. The very epitomy of the Land of the Free got that bit more Soviet today when Michael Bloomberg -Mayor of New York - extended the ban on smoking to all of city’s 14 miles of beaches, marinas and boardwalks and some 1700 parks (including Central Park) as well as many”other” public places such as Times Square.
“This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts,”said Mr Bloomberg. “Breathe even cleaner air” (I love the “even” in that sentence) – that’s if you can see the air for the car fumes of course… (no they lost the congestion charge battle some time ago).
Still, the few tourists they will have left following the introduction don’t have to be too concerned just yet.. It has also been announced the smoking ban will be self-enforced, with residents rather than police warning others not to smoke in public places. And should an over eager policeman decide he will fine you, a delightfully named “quality-of-life summon” will be handed down to a violator of the smoking ban, similar to what the city does for public urination (!) with a fine of about $50. But no “on-the-spot” fines here as the fear of corruption is too great! Go figure…..
So where can you smoke in New York? City sidewalks (obviously) and private businesses where smoking is presently allowed, e.g. rooftop bars and private apartments of course – though watch this space as many want to see a ban on smoking in private residences introduced here too. What will it be I wonder? Secret surveillance cameras in their bathrooms? or just good old ratting on neighbours.
There is much controversy about this ban as you might expect. Over half the city say they are against it, and the phone-ins across the city are awash with people asking why ban smoking in public parks (where there is ample space to get away from the smoke) but allow it on the pavements where people are squeezed in six to a dozen.
Well, welcome to the world of soviet planning folks…no rhyme nor reason…
It has been suggested that this ban is more about the cost of cleaning up the cigarette butts than it is about the “cleaner air”. And they may be right. In 2010, New York taxpayers worked until April 23, ranking it 3rd highest in the nation, 2 weeks after the national Tax Freedom Day (April 9). …Who knows….