No breathing space for New York’s smokers?

With all the bans on smoking in the workplace across Europe – and, as a consequence, smokers being barred from pubs and restaurants – you’d think that the clampdown on smokers had gone just about as far as it could go without an outright tobacco ban.

Apparently not, though. New York City looks as if it may be set to ban smoking in public almost entirely, even for people who are simply sitting on a park bench, lazing on a beach or even standing in or walking through a pedestrian plaza. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a law to exclude all these public places (and others, including boardwalks and marinas) from the few remaining areas that people are able to smoke in public, and he appears likely to win the vote in the City Council.

Officials have cited a study by Stanford University published in May 2007 which shows that a person sitting outdoors within a metre of a smoker may be exposed to second-hand smoke at similar levels to those found indoors. Well, perhaps. I’m sceptical – is this smoker blowing the smoke direct at the other person, perhaps?

For pity’s sake, if a non-smoker’s in a public place out of doors, how hard can it be to avoid someone who’s smoking – especially if they’re clearly already smoking before the non-smoker arrives? But under the proposed new law, a non-smoker would be within their rights to deliberately find a place to sit downwind of a smoker, summon a law enforcement official and insist that the smoker be served a “quality of life” ticket and fined ($50 is the penalty likely to be imposed for smoking violations).

Thus the reduction of smokers to pariah status continues. Makes almost as much a mockery of the USA’s boast to be the land of the free as their immigration barriers do.

Meanwhile the Greeks look set to ignore yet another attempt by their government to enforce legislation banning smoking in the workplace and in bars. Maybe I’ll go there on holiday next year.