New Yorkers and other state visitors are again free to smoke around various state parks, pools, beaches and historic sites after the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation suspended an early April smoking ban on these locales. The smokers’ rights group NYC C.L.A.S.H. officially challenged the smoking ban policy on May 1st. The group claimed the Parks Department acted outside its authority in bypassing legislature and passing the ruling, including putting the ban into effect nine days prior to state prescribed submission of a notice of proposed rule. Other arguments by NYC C.L.A.S.H. against the ban, pertaining to civil rights and misinterpretation of the law, have arisen as well.
(By Alissa Fleck)
The Parks Department continues to discourage smoking despite the ban suspension through intimidation—many signs prohibiting smoking remain in place, though they are now intentionally misleading. NYC C.L.A.S.H. is pushing for these signs to be removed as well.
“The crusade against smokers to date has so emboldened government that the rule of law no longer need be practiced when it comes to its citizens that choose to smoke. So far this free-for-all indicates that the Office of Parks is acting as a surrogate for activists’ anti-smoker experiment,” said NYC C.L.A.S.H. founder, Audrey Silk. “The signage alone, should it remain in place, is now ideological in its coercion for compliance with a moral, rather than a legal, dictate.”
According to Associate Counsel Kathleen Martens of the Parks Department, another rule banning smoking could be in the works. First, however, the department will need to consult the NYS Clear Indoor Air Act for current smoking restrictions to avoid the same legal hurdles they face now.
Silk has retained an attorney and promises to continue fighting what she sees as abuse of the legal process by the Parks Department. “Possibly they figure that no one else will care since it’s ‘only’ about smokers. But when government bureaucracies are allowed to get away with breaking the law, it’s the law itself that suffers and, next thing you know, it will ‘only’ be about some activity you enjoy or some group you belong to,” said Silk.
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