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New York may ban smoking in parks

New York City is pursuing a tough new policy which would keep smokers out of public parks, beaches and even the heart of Times Square - one of the most ambitious outdoor anti-tobacco efforts in the nation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and city politicians announced today that they will pursue a broad extension of the city's smoking ban to 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches, plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas.

That would mean no smoking in Central Park, no lighting up on the Coney Island boardwalk and putting the cigarettes away if you are lounging on the traffic-free pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square.

"When New Yorkers and visitors to our city go to the parks and beaches for fresh air, there will actually be fresh air for them to breathe," Mr Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

States and cities from Maine to California have banned smoking in public parks and beaches, but New York is pursuing one of the widest urban bans.

By including pedestrian plazas, the Bloomberg administration is also venturing into territory most anti-tobacco bans leave alone - smoking in the street.

The boundaries of the plazas, in most cases, are pavements, bike lanes and street corners and, if the law is passed, it would be easy for a smoker to drift from the pavement, where smoking is still allowed, into a plaza, where it is not.

Politicians said the goal was to stop people smoking inside the plazas, not to trick smokers into getting ticketed.

"The point of this Bill isn't 'Gotcha'," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Our goal is not to get a gentleman or a lady who's walking across the street."

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