Ninety days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law this most recent expansion of the city’s smoking ban, it became illegal on Monday to smoke in the New York City’s over 1,700 parks and on its 14 miles of beaches. This came in the wake of a 32-16 City Council vote back in February. Smoking is now also prohibited along the city’s boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas, such as Times Square.

A spokeswoman for the city’s parks department said the administration is in the process of erecting 3,000 to 4,000 permanent signs saying “Smell Flowers, Not Smoke” to alert people to the new law. The city is also launching a campaign highlighting the new law with ads on television, in the subway and in print media, officials said Monday.

Living in New York, I can hear the mixed emotions in places such as Bryant and Central Parks. These are popular hangout and lunch spots during the working week and some are threatening to even call the police when someone is smoking near them within park boundaries. Some still don’t seem to have any regard for the new ordinance, and others are observing by simply walking just off park grounds to light up.

As of Monday evening, officials said no citations had been issued.

Parks Department officials are authorized to enforce the law and may issue fines of $50 per violation. But city officials say they’re hopeful the new ban will be self-enforcing on a type of “honor system.”

Eight years ago, The Big Apple’s mayor Michael Bloomberg convinced the City Council to approve a ban in bars and restaurants and other indoor workplaces.

Thomas Farley, commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said New Yorkers deserve to enjoy public places free of smoke and cigarette butts:

“Smoke-free parks protect all those who visit from the dangers of secondhand smoke and our children can play without getting a lesson on how to smoke. It is our hope that smokers, most of whom want to quit, will use this as an opportunity make a quit attempt.”

During his first term in office, the mayor proposed and won council approval to ban smoking in bars and restaurants citywide. The measure has since gained widespread acceptance, and Mr. Bloomberg considers it one of the greatest achievements of his tenure. Over the years, he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage people worldwide to quit smoking.

Sheelah Feinberg, executive director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City adds:

“Thanks to this policy, public spaces intended for outdoor recreation will now be available for use in the healthy manner they were intended.”

Other cities and countries around the world already have similar laws in effect.

A 2006 smoking ban in Buenos Aires city prohibits smoking in public areas including bars and restaurants except if the bar is more than 100 m2 where it is possible to provide an area for smoking customers. Similar bans in other Argentine cities require bigger establishments to provide a separate, contained area for smoking customers. The rule is not nationwide.

Italy was the fourth country in the world to enact a nationwide smoking ban. Since 2005 it is forbidden to smoke in all public indoor spaces, including bars, cafés, restaurants and discos. However, special smoking rooms are allowed. In such areas food can be served, but they are subjected to strict conditions: they need to be separately ventilated, with high air replacement rates; their air pressure must constantly be lower than the pressure in the surrounding rooms; they must be equipped with automatic sliding doors to prevent smoke from spreading to tobacco-free areas; they may occupy at most 50% of the establishment. Only 1% of all public establishments have opted for setting up a smoking room.

Syrian smoking is banned inside cafes, restaurants and other public spaces by a presidential decree issued late 2009 and came in to force April 2010. Syria was the first Arab country to introduce such a ban. The decree also outlaws smoking in educational institutions, health centers, sports halls, cinemas and theatres and on public transport.

In the holy Vatican City, Pope John Paul II signed a law in 2002 which banned smoking on all places accessible to the public and in all closed places of work within the Vatican City and within all extraterritorial properties of the Holy See. Smoking bans in museums, libraries and churches on Vatican territory were already in force before that date for a long time.

Finally, the Vietnamese government has banned smoking and cigarette sales in offices, production facilities, schools, hospitals, and on public transport nationwide. Smoking was banned in enclosed indoor spaces and public facilities in Ho Chi Minh City in 2005 with the exception of entertainment areas. A ban has also been imposed on all forms of advertisement, trade promotion, and sponsorship by tobacco companies, as well as cigarette sales through vending machines, or over the telephone and on the Internet.

Sources: NYC Smoke Free and Online List of International Smoking Bans

Written by Sy Kraft