New York just passed a law that bans tobacco or cannabis smoking on any state beaches, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers, and group campsites.
Now that the new law is in effect, anyone caught sparking up a joint or a cigarette in any of these public areas can be fined $50. This fine is added on to any other fines imposed by local municipalities, so anyone who breaks the rules could end up paying double. The ban does not apply to parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills, and it's still legal to light up in parking lots or sidewalks next to parks or beaches. Cannabis and nicotine vapes and e-cigarettes are still allowed as well.
"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," Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement. "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 is primarily focused on cigarettes, mainly due to the well-documented risks of secondhand tobacco smoke. Lawmakers are also hoping that the new law will help reduce the vast number of cigarette butts that currently litter the state's public spaces. These non-biodegradable butts are a serious environmental hazard, and are the main item that is collected during cleanup projects.
"New York's public parks are family friendly venues,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in a statement. “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. Our parks also shouldn't be tainted by non-biodegradable cigarette butts scattered throughout their ground.”
The research on the risks of secondhand cannabis smoke is far less conclusive, but several studies have reported that smoking weed poses far fewer health risks than cigarette smoking does. Researchers have found that some rolling papers and blunt wraps do contain heavy metals or other toxic contaminants, however. Most filters are not very eco-friendly, either, but some companies have come up with sustainable alternatives.
New York is one of the only adult-use states to include protections for public cannabis use in its adult-use law. The New York State Fair even allowed adults to blaze up during the festivities last year, but apparently, people smoked so much that promoters may choose to impose new regulations on this year's fair. The state's new public smoking ban may also encourage more fairs and events to prohibit pot smoke at future events.
But even with new restrictions in place, the Empire State's public cannabis consumption laws are still way more relaxed than other states. Most adult-use states still ban public pot consumption completely, and this has allowed cops to continue arresting and fining people for pot in states where weed is legal. Public consumption bans also make it difficult for pot tourists to blaze bud that they buy at state-legal dispensaries.