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Suffolk passes smoking ban for parks, beaches

Paul LaRocco

Smoking in Suffolk's parks and beaches will soon be banned under a bill passed this week by the county legislature.

But the ban contains no fines for violators and exempts parking lots, campgrounds and golf courses.

Lawmakers voted 10-7 Tuesday to approve the resolution by Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), a physician who also fought to restore tobacco education funding that was to be cut from Suffolk's budget.

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"It's a start," Spencer said. "The legislative intent was not for it to be punitive, but to protect public health."

He compromised on some portions of the legislation -- namely golf courses, where there tends to be fewer children -- to prohibit smoking in the places, such as beaches, that families more frequently recreate. Secondhand smoke, even outdoors, can be harmful to small children, the doctor said, while cigarette butts on beaches can hurt the environment.

"It's a matter of people being entitled to breathe clean air," Spencer said.

Suffolk follows New York City, which banned smoking at its parks and beaches last year. Nassau County and most Long Island towns still allow the activity.

Michael Seilback, vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association's New York region, said, "Having it even more expansive would be better, but this is still a pretty solid piece of legislation that's going to make large portions of the county smoke-free."

The ban takes effect 90 days after Spencer's bill is signed by County Executive Steve Bellone and filed with the state.