Suffolk Bans Smoking at County Parks, Beaches

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A smoker's ashtray filled with cigarette butts and ash. (AP Image/Dave Hunt)

Suffolk County lawmakers have approved a ban on smoking in county parks and beaches.

The bill passed the legislature Tuesday at its meeting in Riverhead and will go into effect next year. It aims to provide park-goers with protection from secondhand smoke and preserve cleanliness of the county parks.

Smoking will be limited to park parking lots, golf courses and campsites, but no penalties will be made to smokers who do not comply.

“Our county residents have a right to clean air,” said Legis. Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who sponsored the bill.

The Department of Health determined that outdoor secondhand smoke exposure within a certain radius is equally as toxic as if it were indoors, he said.

Some lawmakers, such as Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James), argued that there needs to be a complete ban to make a statement.

“It does not make sense to me to pass a law where you can’t smoke here, but can smoke 10 feet over there,” she said. “If we are going to care about health, then we are going to care about health.”

Others, such as Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington), thought the law went too far.

“Some say it goes too far and some say it doesn’t go far enough, so this tells me that I am right there,” said Spencer.

Lawmakers noted that Suffolk County was one of the first to pass a restaurant smoking ban in the late 80s and passed legislation in 2002 to prohibit smoking in a 50-foot radius of county buildings and hospitals.

The Town of Smithtown also had been drafting a bill that would ban on smoking in their parks and within 50-feet of town buildings.