Albany Common Council votes to ban smoking in city parks

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Updated: 8/04 11:17 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. – Tobacco-free zones in city parks has become regulation after the Albany City Common Council voted to approve the ordinance.

The ordinance will restrict people from lighting up any tobacco product within certain areas of city parks. Signs would be posted to designate these areas.

The passage would mean no smoking at Washington Park or the Corning Preserve. Those who violate the ordinance will be fined $50.

Only one council member was against the ban, but he abstained, and the rest of the council voted in favor. Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin called it a matter of public health.

"It benefits all of us,” she said. “I know that it's a little inconvenient, I think maybe, for those individuals that smoke, but I think this is something that can benefit them as well.” 

The ordinance was initially passed by the committee on July 23, but faced the full council vote on Monday.

“People should not be able to do that because if kids are around, then you can’t control that, and it will get to the kids, so as a parent I wouldn’t want it,” resident Nakshab Nadeem said.

The ordinance will affect city events such as the Tulip Festival and Alive at Five as there will no longer be smoker friendly tents or zones.

But some people are unsure of how the city would enforce such a broad ordinance. Council members said there would be signs posted, and they would encourage “community policing,” but ultimately, they want Albany police to step in if needed.

Some people aren’t sure that’s worth it.

“You’re going to put a lot of money into taxes just for people to stand around and give tickets to people smoking,” Aaron Hefty said. “They can do something better with themselves.”

Councilmember Judd Krasher said the ordinance was common sense and enforcing any legislation is difficult. He said it may not completely stop the problem of secondhand smoke, but he hopes it will deter people from the habit and keep city parks an enjoyable place for non-smokers, too.

“The idea is not really to be punitive fear,” he said. “It’s more of an education initiative to get people to stop smoking in parks because it really is a hazard to public health.”

Council members also voted in favor of the ban because it will reduce the amount of cigarette butts scattered around the parks.

The ordinance will not take effect until Mayor Kathy Sheehan signs it.

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