City Marks Smoke-Free Air Act's 10th Anniversary
"Smoking or Non-smoking?"
It's been 10 years since New York City restaurants have asked that question. Today marked the 10th anniversary of the Smoke-Free Air Act, which outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants.
It was one of the nation's earliest and toughest smoking bans. Mayor Bloomberg and City officials appeared at a Manhattan bar today to celebrate what they called "a model for the rest of the world."
But Audrey Silk with Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment disagreed.
"He wants us to celebrate being a prisoner of his commands. And, I'm sorry, that is not something to celebrate."
Silk said the mayor does not have the right to intrude on New Yorkers' freedoms.
The City says the past ten years have seen record low smoking rates and that the law has saved thousands of lives.
David Lehmann, borough manager for the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership said the law is an issue of workplace safety. "Bars and restaurants are certainly workplaces as well. People were working there 6, 8, 10-hour shifts and being exposed to tobacco smoke, which is a class-A carcinogen."
Lehmann also said the law has really set a trend for big cities around the world. He relates a story from protests during the law's passage in 2003:
"People actually flew over from Paris and said that they would not continue to come as tourists to New York City if they passed this bill. And of course, Paris now has smoke-free restaurants and bars too!"
New York City has expanded its non-smoking laws since the initial 2003 act. Smoking is now also banned in public parks, beaches, and pedestrian plaza, as well as in and around health care facilities.