NEW YORK - A ban on smoking in New York City parks, beaches, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas took effect Monday, but smokers can still puff away legally on sidewalks.
New York's City Council passed the ban in February, over some grumbling about government meddling in people's private lives, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed off on it shortly afterward.
The law extends the city's existing ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. New Yorkers can smoke on sidewalks, parking lots, streets and in their homes, although many landlords of rental properties do not allow it.
Saleswoman Polonia Jourdain, sitting on a park bench clutching her 8-month-old nephew, said she was happy with the ban.
"I don't want to smell smoke wherever I go," said Jourdain, 17, adding that both her mother and brother are smokers.
"The smell of cigarettes makes me nauseous and gives me headaches," she said.
The ban will not be enforced by police but by some 200 parks personnel who watch over the city's 29,000 acres of park land and beaches.
Violators face a $50 fine, but officials say the ban is meant to be largely self-enforcing.
Bloomberg also has promoted health measures including a ban on trans fats in restaurant food and a requirement that chain restaurants display calorie counts on menus.
He has campaigned nationally for food companies to cut salt levels in their products and for the federal government to ban the purchase of sugary drinks with food stamps -- federal vouchers used by 42 million low-income Americans to buy food. (Reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Mohammad Zargham)
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.