All New York City public parks, beaches, board walks and pedestrian plazas are smoke-free as of today.

A ban on smoking in public places in New York City took effect on May 21, after being passed in February by the City Council when it was signed off by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In addition to the city's 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches, Central Park, Times Square plaza and Coney Island's boardwalk are also smoke-free areas.

The remaining places New Yorkers can smoke are limited to sidewalks, parking lots, streets and in their homes.

The ban is meant to be largely self-enforced, and will be left up to some 200 Park Department employees who watch over the park land and benches. Violators could face from $50 to $250 in fines.

New York City has banned smoking indoors in bars and restaurants along with 34 other states, but it is the third city following Los Angeles and Chicago in the effort to ban outdoor smoking.

The ban was meant to drastically cut down the amount of secondhand smoke generated, as well as to deter younger generations' entry to the smoking habit. City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said the ban is for protecting those most vulnerable: asthma sufferers who are susceptible to respiratory attacks from exposure to secondhand smoke, and children who may pick up smoking after watching adults with light cigarettes. It's also meant to reduce litter, CBS reported.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former smoker himself, has pursued to banish the act of smoking like the plague as he reformed his habits. The cornerstone of his strategy in creating a smoke-free environment has been the indoor smoking ban in all workplaces, implemented in 2003.

The city issued 85 violations in 2010, raised cigarette taxes and tried public education campaigns. In the fall of 2010, Bloomberg offered a compromise with a plan of creating public smoking zones, saying the zones would cost a lot to enforce. Instead, Bloomberg expressed his will to continue fighting for an outright ban in public parks and beaches for New Yorkers to breathe fresh air. After a nearly decade-long effort to reduce smoking through public policy, the new law should protect New Yorkers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Some health experts question whether or not secondhand smoke truly poses a danger in open outdoor spaces, and critics of the law say the city is violating civil liberties.

NYC CLASH (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment) is protesting with a smoke in the park, to call for a repeal or to simply demonstrate anger, according to the group's website.