New Yorkers hoping to enjoy a smoke or a toke in one of the state’s beaches or parks might want to think twice.
Kathy Hochul, the state’s Democratic governor, signed a bill into law last month that will prohibit “smoking in all state-owned beaches, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers, and group camps.”
Those caught smoking in such areas could face a fine of $50.
“Smoking is a dangerous habit that affects not only the smoker but everyone around them, including families and children enjoying our state’s great public places,” Hochul said in a statement following the bill signing last month. “I’m proud to sign this legislation that will protect New Yorkers’ health and help reduce litter in public parks and beaches across the state.”
The new law applies to both tobacco and cannabis.
Recreational pot use has been legal in the Empire State since last year, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation.
The law permitted cannabis use wherever tobacco use is also permitted.
The bill signed into law last month “exempts the Adirondacks and Catskills from the [smoking] ban as well as parking lots, sidewalks adjoining parks, and areas not used for park purposes,” according to the governor’s office.
“Many municipalities and local governments already have restrictions or bans on smoking in public spaces. This additional penalty will enforce a statewide prohibition and includes a fine that will be collected by localities,” Hochul’s office explained in the press release issued last month. “In addition to the health risks posed by secondhand smoke, cigarette butts are a major environmental hazard due to the non-biodegradable filters that are discarded. They are the leading item found during cleanup projects. Through this prohibition, parks and beaches will be kept cleaner and safer as will our local ecosystems.”
The law was celebrated by several New York lawmakers.
“New York’s public parks are family friendly venues. No one, especially children, should be subjected to secondhand smoke while playing on a playground or enjoying the day at a public beach or camp site,” said Democratic state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky. “Our parks also shouldn’t be tainted by non-biodegradable cigarette butts scattered throughout their grounds. I am proud to sponsor this legislation to protect and improve our beautiful network of parks and I thank Governor Hochul for helping New Yorkers enjoy the beauty of our parks by signing it into law.”
Fellow Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, a member of the New York State Assembly, said the law honors the spirit of public greenspace.
“New Yorkers head to our parks for fresh air and to foster a healthy lifestyle. Smoking is the opposite of that. I am very pleased the Governor Hochul has signed into law this important statewide ban on smoking in parks, and thank you to my colleagues for their vital support on this bill over the years,” Dinowitz said last month.
While New Yorkers aged 21 and older have been able to legally possess and use cannabis since last year, the state’s regulated weed market isn’t expected to launch until later this year.
Hochul took over as governor last summer after Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, and she has taken a proactive role in shaping the state’s nascent legal cannabis industry ever since.
Last month, Hochul announced a $5 million grant in support of cannabis industry job training at New York community colleges.
“New York’s new cannabis industry is creating exciting opportunities, and we will ensure that New Yorkers who want careers in this growing sector have the quality training they need to be successful,” Hochul said in the announcement of the funding. “Diversity and inclusion are what makes New York’s workforce a competitive, powerful asset, and we will continue to take concrete steps to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry.”