2012-08-16 / Telling It Like It Is

Telling It Like It Is

Smokin’ Ideas For What Should Be Legal In Public Places
By Dara Mormile

So far this summer, I’ve been to the beach a handful of times. Sometimes I venture out to Far Rockaway, Queens, and a few times I went to Brighton Beach. Every now and then I see a couple of people smoking. Since I don’t smell the smoke and rarely ever see cigarette butts peppered all over the sand, smokers who frequent the beach don’t really bother me.

On the New York City Parks Department’s website they state, “The new law will be enforced mostly by New Yorkers themselves. We expect that New Yorkers will ask people to follow the law and stop smoking. This is how similar laws have worked in other places, including Chicago and Los Angeles. However, people who violate the new law could receive a $50 ticket.

“If someone refuses to stop smoking in a park, beach or other area where smoking is prohibited, New Yorkers are encouraged to inform a Parks Department employee or a Park Enforcement Officer if one is available. Otherwise, complaints can be made by calling 311. Anyone who receives a ticket for violating park rules is entitled to challenge the ticket in court,” it states.

As of May 2011, smoking was officially labeled as being “prohibited at all city parks, beaches and boardwalks, public golf courses and sports stadium grounds.” The city also said that studies suggest sitting even three feet away from a smoker outdoors can expose you to the same level of secondhand smoke as if you were sitting with a smoker indoors.

Still, I’m not sure how Mayor Bloomberg expects to actively enforce the law – especially at beaches. Imagine an officer approaching a half-naked sunbather, who just lit up a cigarette, to issue them a fine?

Let’s get real. There are some people who do WORSE than smoking to ruin people’s good time outdoors. If someone wants to poison their lungs while getting a tan, and they’re not bothering anyone within a few feet away, what’s the big deal? I’m not a smoker and I can’t stand the smell of smoke, but if the city is going to try to crack down on smoking in public, they should consider a few other things to fine people for that are even more of a nuisance to deal with than a few whiffs of nicotine-laced air: Lower the damned music! Wherever you are, we know you want to enjoy a good time with good tunes. If you’ve ever sat on the beach, listening to the beautiful waves crashing in front of you, you know how serene and peaceful it can be. So what provokes someone to prance along with their stereo and blast their beats so everyone along the shore can hear it, too? What’s worse, those who feel the need to share their tunes with the public sit so close to the crowds that there’s nowhere to go but off the beach or to another area to get some peace and quiet. I propose an enforced ban on playing loud music that can be easily be heard three feet away from where it’s being played (the same distance they say is toxic when exposed to secondhand smoke).

Curb your kids! This might be the only time of year your kids get to enjoy time outdoors in the warmth unless they’re with you on vacation on some gorgeous island. However, do you know if your children are being obnoxious to strangers who are trying to relax? Pay attention to where they’re running, splashing themselves, and how far they’re throwing that frisbee or ball. I propose a sign be posted saying, “Please Curb Your Kids – This Isn’t Summer Camp!” We know kids love to run around and it’s great that they get exercise, but parents need to teach their little ones respect when they’re kicking up sand on strangers who are lying down. Let’s not forget those kids who chase each other and don’t care if they trip over other people. If you think smoking is annoying, rude youngsters can be quite unappealing too!

Okay, stop hanging out ALL the time! It’s HOT and you’re allowed to practically wear your underwear at the beach. But some people insist on sporting beachwear that lets it alllllll hang out. Not everyone needs to see parts of your body bulging or overflowing from your swimwear. There are bathing suits for every body type out there – some people just refuse to care or think about how awful they appear. I propose a sign that says, “Fashion Police On Patrol, Please Dress Respectfully.”

Can you hear me now? Well, so can EVERBODY ELSE! You know who I’m talking about – people chatting on their cell phones and beachgoers who are sitting too close to you, and you hear their entire conversation because they’re practically yelling. We don’t want to know about your aunt’s foot fungus or the fact that there was a brawl on Facebook because your boyfriend/girlfriend saw something they didn’t like. I can write a book about all the conversations I’ve overheard on the beach, and how I was woken up from a beautiful nap in the sun because some moron was yelling on his phone to a friend. I’d rather deal with sitting near someone who’s silently smoking 10 feet away instead of dealing with a loudmouth, or a group of loudmouths, who are mindlessly disruptive. Do those people realize that not everyone wants to hear the intimate details of their lives? I get it – it doesn’t matter if strangers hear about your family gossip and who’s sleeping with whom among your friends, but some of us are at the beach to get away from endless chatter and stress that we deal with on a daily basis. Isn’t that the point of being at the beach? I propose a sign that asks people to tone down their conversation to a respectable level, which says, “Tone It Down While Taking In The Sun.”

I’m sure there are dozens of other beach don’ts, but consider the minuscule “annoyance” factors of being around one or two people who smoke at the beach. They can be ruining their lungs and portions of “fresh” city air, but those aren’t the people who are ruining my summer on the beach or at city parks. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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