Jaffee Train Platform Smoking Ban Passes Legislature, Heads to Governor

June 17, 2011

Albany, NY – New Yorkers’ daily train commute is set to become safer to their health after the State Legislature yesterday passed a bill (A5516C/S3461C) by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) to ban smoking on Metro-North Railroad (MNR) and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) platforms. The bill, sponsored and passed in the Senate by Senator Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), now heads to Governor Cuomo to be signed in to law.

“New York's commuters deserve protection from the health hazards of secondhand smoke,” said Jaffee. "Smoking is currently prohibited on New York City's subway platforms, but our state's commuter rail travelers remain exposed. This law will strengthen a ban that currently protects some commuters, but not all.”

Jaffee’s bill would ban smoking at outdoor ticketing and boarding areas, as well as platforms, on trains operated by the MTA or its subsidiaries. This ban will be enforced by the MTA, with violators subject to a $100 fine.

Jaffee noted that the MTA supports the legislation, which strengthens an earlier MTA ban on subway platform smoking by expanding it to include Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad platforms. The MTA has received many complaints from commuters forced to share platform space with smokers both while waiting for trains and when disembarking.

The American Lung Association strongly backs the measure because their data shows the harmful effects of secondhand smoke can be magnified when people are forced into confined quarters such as train platforms, often aggravating the conditions of those with heart or respiratory ailments, such as asthma.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), also a strong supporter of Jaffee’s bill, expressed satisfaction its new protections will soon go in to effect.

“Over the years, we have recognized the health benefits of making certain public spaces smoke free. This smoking ban will provide welcome relief to our region’s commuters who, at great risk to their health, are frequently subjected to unwanted second-hand smoke,” said Silver. “Not only will this measure improve the air quality at crowded train stations, but it also will make the daily commute less stressful and more pleasant for our residents.”

The New York state Department of Health estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for the deaths of 2,500 New Yorkers each year. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Those who breathe in secondhand tobacco smoke are exposed to 7,000 toxic chemicals and 69 known carcinogens.