Today the City Council is holding hearings on the Bloomberg administration's controversial plan to ban smoking in all city parks, pedestrian plazas, beaches and boardwalks. Queens Councilmember Peter Vallone, who has been a longtime supporter of anti-smoking legislation, is introducing a compromise bill that would stop short of a full ban, and create smoking sections in parks larger than two acres. His proposal would also allow smoking in the city's new pedestrian plazas.

If Vallone's version goes through, smoking areas would be reduced to roughly 20% of the space, with the rest smoke-free. Vallone tells the Wall Street Journal, "A smoking section is doable outdoors. They don't work indoors because it's like having a no urinating section in the pool. But outdoors we don't have the same concerns. The compromise version is more workable and more fair." Council Speaker Christine Quinn says she's still committed to her version of the bill, and has not yet given any opinion on Vallone's compromise.

The proposed ban faces opposition from the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, which has joined the New York Tobacconist Association to fight the bill. "We're against legislated smoking bans of any kind," says Chris McCalla, who represents the cigar and pipe crowd. "And so should everyone else, because they take away fundamental rights of citizens everywhere." Ah, yes, first they came for the smokers...