New York City Democrats Remove Yet Another Right: No Smoking In Parks

The party that ever has “Rights!” on its lips, the party with the mania about diversity, the party that is most anxious that religious fundamentalists will take over and impose their puritanical wills on the rest of us, the party whose members remind us constantly of the dangers of the government meddling in our personal lives has, in a fit holy self righteousness, taken away yet another right, decreased diversity, imposed its puritanical will on the rest of us, and has used the law to meddle in our personal lives once more.

New York City Council Democrats have voted to ban smoking in city parks, beaches, pools, boardwalks, and, if it can be believed, marinas. Mayor Bloomberg, a man with much money and therefore with a near infinite belief in his infallibility, has said he will sign the new restrictions, and will do so with a smile on his face. One imagines it will resemble that of the Grinch’s.

Why did they take away the right to smoke in public? According to Speaker Christine C. Quinn, a Democrat, “The statistics don’t lie: second hand smoke kills. With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air.” My dear lady, as a statistician I can tell you that if this is what the statistics are saying, then they are lying. A nasty habit, but one not unfamiliar to most statistics.

No council member mentioned that residents will still breath air polluted from tens of thousands of cars of which, even just one vehicle, in a single sight-seeing trip across our narrow isle, will pump out more “carcinogens” than an inveterate smoker can do in a week. Perhaps we should keep quiet about this, lest the government get ideas.

Another council member, Democrat Gale Brewer, said of her part in restricting her constituents’ behavior, that her vote “will help New Yorkers become healthier.” Ah, health. The modern be all and end all. This strange and recent worship of body is present perhaps because of the feminization of politics, or perhaps it is because of the increase of mothers and mamma’s boys (Bloomberg?) elected to office, or perhaps it is because of increasing secularization which teaches this is it!: miss your chance to be healthy now, and you miss out for all eternity.

You’re tired of seeing this, but it is my duty to remind you of the words of Mark Twain, a man surely wiser than Gale Brewer (D):

There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.

All of us are willing to trade health for other benefits. This must be so because people regularly strap themselves to two-ton SUVs and hurtle their persons down crowded highways that lead to cabins on lakes, whereupon are found boats which trail ropes that are gripped by the SUV drivers with wooden slats tied to their feet. All this pleasure is purchased at the price of the likelihood of injury, even death.

Life is for living, not for crouching behind doors in fear and paranoia that something might—just maybe!—damage our health. This is important to acknowledge because we must never forget that this country once before lost its mind and wrote into its very constitution an amendment forcing health upon those who didn’t want it. If it happened before, it can happen again.

Now, the City Council, in its wisdom, graced its new law with a loophole which allows “actors in theatrical performances” to smoke where they like. Thus, when you are stopped for indulging tell the parks officer that you are rehearsing a play by La Rochefoucauld, and quote to him—by all means, with flair and through a cloud of smoke—“Attention to health is life greatest hindrance.”

Incidentally, unlike those epidemiologists who have received cash and free trips to exotic locales to write their papers and present their results damning second-hand smoke, I have never received anything—no money, no free smokes, no consideration of any kind—from any tobacco company, nor, to my knowledge, from any company even tangentially connected to a tobacco company. I do not smoke cigarettes and never have. This new law limiting freedom will scarcely effect me.


  1. William Sears

    This reminds me of a recent commercial featuring a woman on a motorcycle. It said lose the smoke but retain the fire. The message seemed to be that smoking was more dangerous than driving a motorcycle at high speed down a city street. Maybe it is, but it was an odd argument that makes me think that health is not the real issue.

  2. JH

    Is public smoking a right? Some people would say that public nudity is less offensive than public smoking.


  3. John B

    Is filling one’s lungs with tobacco smoke is “a Right”? Yes? Then not filling one’s lungs with tobacco smoke must also be a Right.

    If A is exercising his Right so to fill his lungs, what happens to B’s Right who has to share the same park bench?

  4. Dennis

    John B

    Not sure how things work in NY but here in Montana we’re not assigned park benches. If we don’t like someone, we just move along to another bench.

  5. Person of Choler

    “Some people would say that public nudity is less offensive than public smoking.”

    Rather depends on who’s nude in pubic, one would think.

  6. Rich

    Anybody got a link to these truth-telling statistics on passive smoking? I’ve looked and looked but I haven’t found any. I don’t smoke either, by the way.

  7. Doug M

    I find the advertisements from the anti-smoking lobby offensive. Nice to know that there is annother non-smoking smorkers advocate out there.

    Belmont California passed a law that said that you can’t smoke in your own appartment.

    You can’t go to the park in New York without a child’s accompaniment.

  8. Ari


    I’ve been a big advocate of smorkers for years. They don’t get nearly enough non-smoker support.


    I occasionally dabble in a cigar here and there, and I even own a hookah to smoke tobacco (seriously). I enjoy it as a way to relax and occasionally do something besides stare at my bazillions of gadgets. I always try to be conscientious and kind to people around me, and will apologize if I am bothering someone and move. It is not my intent to harm another’s personal space or health.

    However, in a park where there is plenty of open space, I don’t see why I can’t smoke a cigar. I simply don’t. There is no deficit of benches or space in most NYC parks, and I don’t see how my finding a quiet corner harms anyone else.

  9. Ray

    “The statistics don’t lie: second hand smoke kills.

    Like Rich said, where are these statistics to be found? I am familiar with the World Health Organization (WHO) study and the Engstron and Krabat study which showed no association between second hand smoke and lung cancer. Also the WHO MONICA study showed no statistical association between cardiac disease and smoking. Even better, I have a copy of the Sugeron Generals 1967 report on smoking which shows that moderate smokers have lower mortality and disease rates than non-smokers. BTW, you will not find that report on the sugeron general website. It’s politically incorrect so it’s been disappeared. If the 1967 report is true, how is second hand smoke killing people?

  10. There is no need for “proof” re: second hand smoke. If it seems logical to our betters, voila!, it is “settled science”. Move on.

  11. Mike B

    Matt, you’re making way to big of a deal about this. What, you think the government is going to turn around and do something really stupid, like ban incansescent light bulbs?


  12. I don’t know whether this prohibition will solve the problem of smoking in public places but I have to say I am often appalled when someone lights a cigarette in a non-smoking zone. Maybe a more effective way to reduce the number of smokers would be to increase the price of cigarettes.

  13. Ari


    That hasn’t stopped people in NYC.


    I think it’s highly unlikely that smoking is beneficial overall to individual health. That still doesn’t mean we should ban it. The notion that any behavior that isn’t “good” should be stopped no matter what is silly in and of itself. We don’t need to reference arguments that are likely inaccurate to make this line of thought stick.

  14. Cecil

    @Heather, please tell us what other appalling activities that offend you that should be banned from public view. Some folks are uncomfortable with open mouth (french) kissing in public. Should they be taxed to discourage it?

    A government imposed moral code enforced by the elite?

  15. New York City Council Democrats? Isn’t that a tautology? A redundancy? A prolix pleonasm?

    I investigated using the able Internet. There are 46 Democrats on the NYC Council and 5 Republicans. That’s more than 90% Dems, according to my handy pocket calculator. Whatever the NYC Council does or doesn’t do, Dems did or didn’t do it.

  16. Rich

    Can some professional person explain something to me. I found this paper on the JAMA website:

    It’s got lots of dinky tables of statistics including the “results of multiple logistic regression analysis”. But the one table that’s missing is the full table of results that would enable readers of “Breaking the Law of Averages” to replicate the analysis and maybe tinker a bit (my p-value is smaller than yours. nyaah”). I’ve never seen a scientific paper where it was. All the marginal values, yes, the actual data, no. Why is that?

  17. John A

    A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon an item concerning an actual study concerning second-hand smoke done in California. The researchers set out to show it by studying asthmatic twins raised seperately, one by a smoker one by a non-smoker, with the idea that the ones in a smoking household would be [more] adversely affected – seemed sure-fire.

    But after two years, they found no difference. Not entirely bad news for the researchers, they also showed a potential link (previously suspected but not shown) of asthma to genetic heritage and applied to expand that research…

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