NYC Bans Smoking in Parks, Beaches and Times Square

Smoking ban covers some 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks

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    Nearly 21 percent of Americans smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    After a lively debate Wednesday, New York's City Council voted to extend the city's smoking ban to parks and beaches and public squares -- like Times Square.

    The Council voted 36-12 to approve the ban.

    The city outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in 2002.  It has now joined cities like Los Angeles and Chicago in banning cigarettes in public outdoor areas like beaches and city parks.

    It covers some 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas.

    Backers of the ban say that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can pose serious health risks, including cancer. 

    Many smokers say the law would infringe on their rights.

    After the vote, the American Cancer Society applauded the move, saying "New Yorkers will soon have the chance to take their children to the playground or spend an afternoon walking along the beach and breathe clean air."