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Policy snuffs out smoke at parks, beaches in state

Smoking will be prohibited at all outdoor concerts at Artpark this year, except in the parking lot.

It also will be forbidden on patios beside the smoke-free restaurants and attractions at Niagara Falls State Park, including the grounds near the Maid of the Mist dock.

Same goes for beaches, poolside and group camp areas across Western New York and the rest of the state.

This is the word that came down from State Parks officials after a state appellate court recently overturned a lower court decision that prohibited the state agency from enforcing no-smoking regulations at playgrounds, pool decks, beaches, preserves, playing fields and other outdoor areas across its parks system.

CLASH, a smoking rights organization, filed the court challenge against State Parks that prevented the prohibitions, which were established in 2013. Attorney General Eric T. Scheiderman, acting on behalf of the state and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, appealed the lower court decision.

“Today’s decisive court decision upholds a common-sense policy to allow our visitors to experience the outdoors without being bothered by secondhand smoke,” agency officials said in a statement after the decision was rendered on New Year’s Eve. “This policy helps ensure that state parks remain healthy places for families to visit and enjoy.”

The ruling was heralded by heath, wellness and fitness advocates, including Parks and Trails New York, a nonprofit agency that filed a “friends of the court brief” recommending the regulations be reinstated.

“The establishment of no smoking areas reduces exposure to harmful and nuisance secondhand smoke,” organization officials said in a news release, “particularly in areas frequented by children; reduces litter, thus saving money on cleanup; avoids conflicts between smokers and nonsmokers; supports healthy recreation; enhances the natural beauty of state parks; and protects parks, historic sites and preserves from fire hazards.”

It will be up to State Parks Police to issue warnings and tickets to violators, a department spokeswoman said. For a list of how regulations impact particular state parks, visit bit.ly/1yJ9vVn.

– Scott Scanlon