One East Harlem block is the first in the city to go smoke-free outdoors, and residents are hoping it may inspire others.
Besides beaches, pedestrian plazas and parks -- places designated as smoke-free areas by Mayor Bloomberg's new anti-smoking regulations -- smokers are also being discouraged from lighting up on the sidewalks along 110th Street between Lexington and Third avenues.
The block enacted the rule this month, the Daily News reported Thursday.
The ban is an informal one, said Brian Ghaw, a local store owner. But since its launch two days ago, the mission is to gently remind smokers that they cannot smoke on the block.
"This is an encouragement to let them know that we're going to create a smoke-free environment on 110th Street," said Ghaw in a phone interview with NBC New York. "We want to remind them that this is a no-smoking block."
According to the Department of Health's most recent Community Health Survey Atlas, East Harlem has one of the city's highest populations of asthma patients -- with roughly 16 to 22 percent of residents claiming to have had asthma issues in their lifetimes.
The block is also home to the East Harlem Asthma Center.
Dr. Betty Perez-Rivera -- the director of the center -- said she helped launch the idea of banning smoking on the short 110th Street strip, and said she hopes that other East Harlem blocks will join the effort.
"We are providing education to the clients and to the community members about smoking," said Dr. Perez-Rivera in a phone interview with NBC New York. "We want to focus on the health of children -- just to clean up the air for them."
Dr. Perez-Rivera said that cigarette smoke is one of the most common triggers of asthma attacks.
Lanfert Logan, a former smoker and asthma sufferer who lives a few blocks away with his wife and two sons, said this effort is worth trying.
"Why should other people walking down the street have to breathe your toxins?" he told the News.
Fifteen neighborhood businesses, such as the Savoy Bakery, Young's Fish Market, The Miranda condominium and RAZA Records, hopped on board in support of the campaign, according to the News.. But organizers said it took some persuasion to get other store owners involved -- especially the stores that sell cigarettes.
The Hell Gate Post Office branch has not yet signed on for the ban. Many of the postal workers smoke, according to advocates.
Despite the spirit of the advocates, not all residents said they're happy about the new rule. Aulene Beckford, 48, a home health aide, said the rule is ridiculous.
"You can't smoke anywhere anymore," she told the News. "It should just be illegal."