Since the mid-90s New York City Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have put forth a concerted effort to clean up the city. Out went the graffiti, prostitution, drugs and danger, in came more money from the tourism industry. The grit and grime that had become a staple of New York was scrubbed clean. Then Brooklyn joined the party and gentrification spread faster than disease.
Cigarettes are the final frontier, and city officials appear to be doing everything in their power to crack down on smokers. New York was the first state to ban cigarette smoking in bars and restaurants. Over the past year the city has upped taxes on cigarettes making the average pack around a preposterously high $12. They have banned smoking from the city’s parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas like Times Square. Officials are even trying to pass a law that would make it illegal to smoke in an automobile if there are people under the age of 14 in the car.
Over the course of the past 50 years New York went from a city covered in a cloud of tobacco to the most uncouth and illegal place to light up. Bloomberg began this crusade when he took office in 2002 and found out New York City non-smokers have the highest nicotine levels in the country due to second-hand smoke. Since then he has taken swift and dramatic measures to cut off its citizens from their nicotine fix.
New York has reached its watershed moment in the war on cigarettes. They have strategically eliminated all possible smoking locations except for hot air balloons and Brooklyn rooftops between the hours of 5 and 7 a.m. All of these legislations are being passed down in an attempt to create a healthier lifestyle for New Yorkers. Forget the fact that the city is full of over-stressed insomniacs who eat and drink with reckless abandon. Apparently, the reason New Yorkers are unhealthy is because some soulless scumbags have a nicotine addiction.
As the New York Times pointed out, it’ll be interesting to see how these laws and possible legislations will be enforced. Will it become like other rarely implemented fines for littering or jaywalking? Will Bloomberg form an elite anti-smoking task force whose job is solely patrol the parks and issue $50 fines to violators? How long will it be before Bloomberg attempts to ban smoking altogether?
Imagine a smoking prohibition era in Manhattan, full of secret handshakes and back alley transactions with people searching for a simple for a drag of a Newport. New Jersey would literally become New Yorkers’ ashtray. As ridiculous as it may sound, it’s the direction the city is moving. Some may consider this a victory for the health of our lungs. Others think it’s unnecessary and excessive.
This week “The Daily Show” satirized the new law by sending reporter Samantha Bee to New York City’s parks to interview patrons about the new smoking ban. Using the trademark “Daily Show” sarcasm and purposeful ignorance she hilariously showed that smoking in New York’s parks is small fries when drug addicts are stumbling around and washing their asses in water fountains.
It’s also ironic that New York is receiving headlines for smoking bans while other states, like neighboring Connecticut, are making news for decriminalizing marijuana. The Constitution State even cited one of the main reasons for the decision as freeing up police from petty citations. Nothing says “real police work” like taking the time to write a $50 ticket for doing a completely legal activity.
We are moving towards a city where smoking a blunt in a public park is more socially acceptable than Marlboro Red. In a lot of social circles that’s already the case.
At the end of his tenure as mayor –- if it ever ends — Bloomberg will be remembered as the man who banned smoking from a city that loves to smoke. Then we’ll legally smoke a bowl and forget this whole war on tobacco ever happened.
By Matt Kiebus