It seems New York City may be taking its smoking ban outdoors. Wednesday, City Hall announced new legislation that would ban smoking in various outdoor areas throughout the city like parks, beaches, marinas, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas. This means people smoking in places like Central Park, Times Square and Coney Island could be issued quality-of-life summonses by the parks department.
I think the mayor is doing the right thing by promoting smoking cessation and ads that warn the public of the dangers of cancer. But I don't necessarily agree that passing this new legislation is going to make a much of a difference when it comes to public health. Second hand smoke is dangerous when we're in confined areas sharing oxygen - but 3rd, 4th or 5th hand smoke - which it would be if you're in an open space like Central Park is not going to harm you in the grand scheme of things. Although it will help to keep the streets clean - which is I think what the mayor is trying to do.
But this brings up a bigger issue_ How much control should the government have when it comes to our health?
Well, as a physician, I think when it comes to things like trans fats, calorie counts, taxing sugary drinks and smoking bans, politicians should be aiming to inform the public about the real science behind why these things are bad for us and leave it to us to make our own decisions. For example, I'm all for going after restaurants to tell the public how much fat, sodium, calories, etc. different foods contain, but I am not in favor of the government telling the restaurants how to cook a burger!
People have to have a certain degree of responsibility, and with the nature of progressive politics, the pendulum seems to be swinging more towards increased government control. We also have to remember that New York City has a lot of hospitals that offer free medical care to people who are uninsured. And at the end of the day, if we don't assume the responsibility of watching what we eat and taking care of ourselves, the government will assume that responsibility - and it's going to start by taking away things that you may enjoy.
What do youthink?