Celebrating 10 years of New York City’s Smoking Ban
It’s hard to remember now, but 10 years ago there was an excellent chance that anyone who spent the evening in a bar would be exposed to copious amounts of secondhand smoke and come home smelling like an ashtray. Today the vast majority of Americans and citizens of the European Union can go to bars and restaurants without being exposed to a known carcinogen!
On the 10th anniversary of what is now hailed as the city’s landmark ban on smoking in most public places, let’s remember it was greeted with widespread skepticism and even scorn.
Yet the Smoke-Free Air Act, which took effect on March 30, 2003, is undeniably one of the most important achievements of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three terms in office.
Borough President James Molinaro recalls that Staten Island smokers weren’t shy about expressing their opposition.
“I remember marching with the mayor in the Travis Parade after the smoking ban went into effect,” Mr. Molinaro recalled. “People were jeering him and actually throwing cigarette butts at him.”
He continued, “But today, 10 years later, we see that the mayor was correct. Even bar and restaurant owners who once opposed the ban now see their businesses thriving more than ever.”
There is no disputing that the broad prohibition on smoking has made a big dent in the popularity of cigarettes, especially on tobacco-prone Staten Island.
In the past decade, the rate of smoking in our borough has plunged by about half — from 27.2 percent to 13.5 percent.
It’s estimated that the restrictions on smoking have prevented 10,000 premature deaths among New Yorkers.
Remember when concerned civil libertarians gnashed their teeth and predicted doom and gloom for business owners?
The city now has 6,000 more bars and restaurants than before the ban took effect, a 47-percent increase, the mayor said.
It would be nice if Bloomberg’s many vocal critics would at least acknowledge the numerous demonstrable benefits this “big government nanny state intrusion on civil rights” has bequeathed to the world.