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N.Y. State Parks Outdoor Smoking Ban Is Blocked by Court

New York’s ban on outdoor smoking in state parks was blocked by a judge after a smokers’-rights group argued that the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation exceeded its authority.

Supreme Court Justice George B. Ceresia Jr. in Troy, in a ruling dated Oct. 8 and made public today, permanently blocked the office from implementing or enforcing the ban and ordered any signs referring to it removed.

The parks office extended its actions “into the realm of legislating,” Ceresia wrote, saying state law doesn’t give it the right to promulgate rules “regulating conduct bearing any tenuous relationship to park patrons’ health or welfare.”

Andrew Friedman, a spokesman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said that office is reviewing the decision with parks officials. The Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation said in a statement it has legislative authority to “manage a wide variety of activities within state parks to balance often conflicting uses of our patrons.”

“We believe this authority extends to the regulation of outdoor smoking on playgrounds, swimming pools, beaches and other locations where children and visitors congregate,” the parks office said. “We are considering an appeal of the court’s decision.”

Picnic Areas

A regulation adopted in February allowed the agency to designate outdoor no-smoking zones in 179 state parks and 35 historic sites, including swimming beaches, picnic areas and boardwalks.

The organization New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment sued in April to block the actions.

“This is putting the prohibitionists on notice that despite their ugly war being waged on adults who choose to smoke, they are not entitled to a free-for-all in governing when it comes to this segment of society,” Audrey Silk, founder of the group, said today in a statement.

New York City banned smoking in almost all workplaces and indoor recreational venues in March 2003, and the state Legislature followed with a similar ban four months later.

Similar Measure

The ban on smoking in state parks also followed a similar measure by the city that banned the activity in city parks, beaches, boardwalks, golf courses and pedestrian plazas. Measures to curb tobacco use, including higher taxes and restrictions on displays of cigarettes, have been a centerpiece of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to improve public health since he took office in 2002.

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. He is prevented by law from seeking a fourth four-year term.

“Nothing in this decision is intended to circumscribe respondents’ legitimate powers,” the judge wrote. “Nor is this decision intended to express an opinion on the wisdom of outdoor smoking regulations, provided that they are enacted by the government body with the authority to do so.”

The case is NYC CLASH Inc. v. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, 2218/2013, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County.

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