The recent passage of a state law prohibiting smoking of tobacco and cannabis in all public parks has received widespread media attention, and deservedly so.
Eliminating smoking in parks keeps the air healthy, prevents toxic tobacco litter from harming people, animals, and the environment, and increases accessibility to people with health conditions such as asthma.
So, a huge thank you is due to the New York State Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul for taking this important step to make parks safer and healthier spaces for everyone.
Unfortunately, this new law has also created some confusion for local governments tasked with implementing and enforcing the state law, and for residents who are expected to comply.
The confusion is understandable given the following realities.
Effective Oct. 13, 2022, New York State Public Health Law (NYSPHL) will prohibit smoking of tobacco and cannabis in “any public park,” defined as “public parks, beaches, pools, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers, and group camps.”
It does not prohibit vaping in these areas.
There is currently only one other provision in Article 13-E of NYSPHL (related to public libraries) that prohibits smoking but allows vaping.
In all other cases, wherever smoking is prohibited by NYSPHL, so too is vaping.
NYSPHL prohibits smoking and vaping of tobacco products between sunrise and sunset at all playgrounds in New York when one or more children under age 12 are present.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act prohibits the smoking and vaping of cannabis anywhere smoking and vaping of tobacco is prohibited, including in playgrounds as described above.
Fortunately, local governments have the authority to enact more comprehensive and consistent local policies that are easier to enforce, and easier for people to understand and observe.
Many local municipalities have already taken this step by prohibiting smoking and vaping of both tobacco and cannabis on all municipal property including, but not limited to, parks.
To learn more about New York state law, the benefits of comprehensive smoke- and vape-free policies, and to find out if your community has local smoke- and vape-free regulations in place, visit the Capital District
Tobacco-Free Communities website at www.SmokeFreeCapital.org.
Theresa Zubretsky is Community Engagement Coordinator for the Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities.