Banning Outdoor Smoking In Ithaca

The planning committee for Ithaca, New York's Common Council has been deliberating over the details of a new law that would place a ban on smoking in several outdoor areas. The law in question would make smoking out of bounds in most of the Commons, city parks, playgrounds, all natural trails and areas, mobile vending sites, bus shelters, and a 25 foot "breathing space" at entrances to city buildings, day care centers, and schools.

Unanticipated Consequences?

Alderwoman Ellen McCollister, D-3rd expressed her reservations about the proposed law. "It's far more effective and far less intrusive to regulate smoking through higher cigarette taxes," said McCollister, who feels that the logistics of the law will be hard to understand and even harder to enforce. She is concerned that the law may carry unanticipated consequences.

McCollister also feels that taxpayers should be questioning why so much city staff time has been devoted to this issue. "It's extremely well intended, but I think it's just plain wrong," she said.

Alderman Eric Rosario I-2nd felt at first much the way McCollister feels about the law, and decided to take the role of chairing the subcommittee charged with drafting the regulations on smoking so he could move things in a more "moderate direction." However, after reading up on the scientific research on the subject of outdoor smoking and its effects, he's changed his mind about the smoking ban, at least in some of the proposed areas outlined by the draft. For instance, says Rosario, "To me, it's appalling that we've never regulated playgrounds until this discussion was brought up."

Concomitant Rewards

Rosario still thinks that the proposed law goes much too far. But Alderwoman Maria Coles, D-1st doesn't feel the draft of the new regulations goes far enough. "Whenever legislation has been put in place to regulate smoking, there have been concomitant rewards with regard to improved health," Coles said. " …  I'm one of those who thinks that in fact a smoke-free Commons would be far more of an attraction than less of an attraction."

Alderman Svante Myrick D-4th comments that he has asthma due to the effects of second hand smoke to which he was exposed in his home while growing up. He says that the time and money spent by the city on creating these regulations are worthwhile since "smoking kills more people in this country than car accidents, suicide, homicide, drug overdoses combined," he said.