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White Plains Bans Smoking in City-Owned Parks

When Frank D’Agostino, 50, heard that the White Plains Common Council passed a smoking ban in city-owned parks and recreational areas Monday night, he lit up a cigarette in protest.

Between drags D’Agostino said the ban was unfair to Westchester smokers who pay taxes for the upkeep of public parks.

“As a tax-payer, I feel like it’s an infringement on my civil liberties,” said D’Agostino, a hair dresser from Thornwood who often spends time in White Plains. “I should be able to smoke where I pay taxes for these [outdoor spaces]. If people don’t like it they can go to their own domain.”

The Common Council unanimously passed a smoking ban in all city-owned parks, playgrounds, trails, plazas, playing fields and other outdoor recreation areas Monday night. When the ban goes into effect on July 7 smokers who light up in a public open space will receive a $25 fine for their first violation, a $50 fine for their second offense and a $75 fine for any subsequent violations.

Smokers including D’Agostino said the fining system is particularly harsh.

“It’s a money making scheme and it’s more taxation without representation,” said D’Agostino. “If I can’t smoke outside, they shouldn’t be able to drink at public affairs. What’s next? Are they going to come into our houses and tell us not to smoke.”

Others such as White Plains resident Maria Anderson, 35, commended the government for helping her avoid secondhand smoke.

“It’s been a long time coming, they should have done it a while ago,” said Anderson, who takes a daily stroll through downtown White Plains and Tibbits Park with her two-year-old and five-month-old children. “Every day I walk with them, and every day smoke blows in their faces and mine. It’s not healthy. I shouldn’t have to change my route up because people smoke.”

Mayor Thomas Roach said he’d only received positive feedback on the ban so far. However, he anticipated some residents would view the ban as a civil liberties violation.

“There’re a number of things you can do on your own property that you can’t do in a public park, like drink alcohol, so this is just one more,” said Roach. “This is protecting the personal rights of those who don’t smoke and who go to the parks to enjoy the fresh air.”

Local anti-tobacco organizations such as the Westchester branch of POW’R Against Tobacco also applauded the ban.

“Outdoor recreational areas such as parks/playgrounds, and beaches are places that people go to enjoy outdoor activities, breathe fresh air and exercise,” Westchester POW'R Coordinator Makeda James wrote in an email. “Exposure to secondhand smoke should not be a concern. The 2006 Surgeon General's report highlights that even brief exposures to secondhand smoke may have adverse effects to one's heart and respiratory health.”

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