Says secondhand smoke hurts kids
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The state and city have banned smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars and concert venues, over the past 10 years by enacting legislation. But the ban needed more teeth, according to Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.
Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) said that soon, people won’t be able to light up a cigarette near a child on the monkey bars. He was among several lawmakers in Albany who pushed through legislation that would ban smoking in playgrounds and parks.
The new ban goes into effect this month.
The push for smoke-free playgrounds comes as New York State is marking the 10th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, landmark legislation that outlawed smoking in bars, restaurants and many other public facilities.
“While the Clean Indoor Air Act has been a success, more protections are needed. That’s why I supported a new law that further protects children from secondhand smoke by making it illegal to smoke on playgrounds between sunrise and sunset where children under the age of 12 are present,” Brook-Krasny said.
The new law “ensures that children will be less vulnerable to the risks of being exposed to secondhand smoke,” Brook-Krasny said.
The threat to children’s health is real, he said. “Secondhand smoke puts children at risk of severe respiratory diseases and often hinders the growth of their lungs. Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and impairs a child’s ability to learn,” he said.
According to the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), children are more vulnerable to the dangers of secondhand smoke because they are still developing physically and have higher breathing rates than adults.
Secondhand smoke has also been linked to asthma in children, according to the EPA, which said that many of those youngsters had never experienced asthma symptoms before.
The EPA estimated that some 3,000 non-smokers die each year of lung cancer deaths a year and the agency stated that it could be attributed to secondhand smoke.
“I’ll continue looking for effective ways to keep children away from secondhand smoke, which contains 40 substances that are known to cause cancer,” Brook-Krasny said.
The New York State Clean Indoor Air Act is working well, he said.
He cited studies by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) that show that over the last 10 years, exposure to secondhand smoke by young people attending middle school and high school has dropped by one-third. The DOH also found that hospitalizations for heart attacks decreased by eight percent in the first year after the law were enacted.
The decline in cardiac hospitalizations has saved New Yorkers $56 million in health care costs, the study found.
And businesses have not been hurt by the smoking ban, as had been feared, Brook-Krasny said.
Studies show that compliance with the law has been virtually universal. Prior to 2003, less than 50 percent of New York’s restaurants and just 11 percent of bars were smoke-free. “Today, all of New York’s restaurants and over 99 percent of bars show no signs of smoking,” he said.