Tobacco-Free Outdoor Air: 5 Things to Know

New York City has made great strides in protecting the health of city residents from the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke through enacting a number of laws that curb smoking outdoors. As a result, smoking rates are declining and a growing number of New Yorkers are being educated about the deadly effects of smoking. However, with new forms of smoking, including menthol cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), gaining popularity among youth and other vulnerable communities, it’s more important than ever to uphold everyone’s right to breathe clean, tobacco-free air, especially in outdoor public spaces.

Here are 5 things to know about tobacco-free outdoor air:

  1. The dangers of secondhand smoke persist in our outdoor spaces. More than 7,000 chemicals are found in secondhand smoke, causing 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year in the United States.
  2. Outdoor smoking became a notable public health issue in 1995. The Smoke-Free Air Act of 1995 first limited smoking to designated “smoking” areas in several public spaces and commercial buildings.
  3. Major progress was made toward tobacco-free outdoor air in 2003. The Smoke-Free Air Act of 2003 built on past laws to ban smoking in restaurants and most bars, as well as some outdoor restaurant and bar seating areas.
  4. Non-traditional forms of cigarettes also contribute to secondhand smoke. Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) were adopted into the Smoke-Free Air Act in 2014, while the Smokeless Tobacco Law of 2016 made it illegal for anyone to use smokeless tobacco at a sports or recreational arena.
  5. Secondhand smoke is rampant in housing communities. The New York Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) smoke-free policy will go into effect this July, prohibiting smoking in all NYCHA buildings, including outdoor areas on the premises.

Secondhand smoke remains a serious health hazard for communities throughout New York City and across the nation. Since 1964, 2.5 million adult nonsmokers have died due to secondhand smoke. NYC Smoke-Free, a Public Health Solutions initiative, works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy and education.


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