THE BRONX - The new citywide smoking ban went into effect today, preventing smokers from lighting up in all parks, beaches, public plazas and on boardwalks.

Those who break the law could face fines of $50 per violation, but officials say they plan to rely more on signs and social pressure than active enforcement.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says the law will protect people from dangerous secondhand smoke, which could prove beneficial in The Bronx, which has the highest asthma rate in the city.

Critics of the law say the city is trampling on civil liberties, but many others say the ban is a big step toward a healthier New York.

The city banned smoking in restaurants, bars and other public indoor spaces in 2002.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report

City Council votes to ban smoking in parks