Tobacco-Free Outdoor Air

What are Tobacco-Free Outdoor Policies?

Tobacco-Free Outdoor Policies (TFO) are voluntary policies adopted by businesses, community institutions, and faith-based organizations to ban smoking on their outdoor property. These policies protect the employees, patrons, and visitors of these organizations from dangerous secondhand smoke. They also help protect property from cigarette litter and damage. Smoking in outdoor spaces is an ongoing health hazard that exposes thousands of New Yorkers to secondhand smoke every day.

What is Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke is dangerous at any level of exposure. New York City has made great strides in protecting the health of its residents by restricting smoking in parks, beaches, restaurants, and other spaces. However, many New Yorkers are still exposed to the deadly health effects of secondhand smoke in outdoor spaces on a daily basis. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of burning tobacco products and smoke that is exhaled during tobacco use. Over 7,000 chemicals are found in secondhand smoke. Hundreds of chemicals are toxic and are known to cause cancer. Smoking not only harms smokers, but it also harms non-smokers. Since 1964, 2.5 million non-smoking adults have died from secondhand smoke. Every year, secondhand smoke causes 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease.

History of TFO Policies in NYC:

  • The Smoke-Free Air Act of 1995 limited smoking to designated “smoking” areas in several public spaces and commercial buildings.
  • In 2002, the first expansion of the Smoke-Free Air Act incorporated past laws regarding smoking in outdoor spaces such as parks, beaches, and restaurants.
  • In 2014, the Smoke-Free Air Act began to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes and vaping devices. All NYC pedestrian plazas are smoke-free.
  • In 2016, the Smokeless Tobacco Law made it illegal for anyone to use smokeless tobacco at a sports or recreational arena.

These policies go a long way in lowering smoking rates and protecting non-smokers. In 1991, 88% of non-smokers had measurable levels of cotinine in their bodies, a product formed after nicotine enters the body and used as a biomarker for secondhand smoke exposure. By 2012, that number had fallen to 25% of non-smokers. No one should be exposed to addictive substances like nicotine against their will.

Goals to Increase TFO Policies in NYC

  • Reduce or eliminate tobacco use in outdoor areas and denormalize tobacco use.
  • Provide opportunities for organizations to support the adoption of TFO Policies.
  • Disseminate information on the benefits of TFO policies to equip communities with effective advocacy tools.

Every New Yorker has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work, and play – including the outdoor spaces they visit and pass through on a daily basis. NYC Smoke-Free supports policies that ban smoking in outdoor public places, especially where children and families gather, to reduce health hazards from secondhand smoke.


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