New York City is the latest city to make headlines by passing an outdoor smoking ban that would apply to parks and beaches. Other cities have enacted similar smoking bans in public places, but evidence may be scant as to whether they really clear the air.
The American Cancer Society reports on the dangers of secondhand smoke here. But when it comes to smoking outdoors, the organization says: “There is no research in the medical literature as yet that shows cigarette odors cause cancer in people.”
And the New York Times in an opinion piece earlier this month says the mayor and the city "have overreached" by prohibiting smoking in places like Times Square. It says: "No smoking at the crossroads of the world? The vortex of tourism that brings smokers and nonsmokers in great numbers? The site of the world’s most famous New Year's Eve party, where who knows what goes on? All of this takes the mayor's nannying too far, even for those of us who want to avoid the hazards of secondhand smoke."
That's not to say that secondhand smoke is benign. MedlinePlus sums up the dangers nicely: "Health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke include lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer, respiratory tract infections and heart disease. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Children, pregnant women, older people and people with heart or breathing problems should be especially careful."