A state judge struck down on Friday a ban on smoking in public parks and beaches in the state of New York, accepting the arguments of a smokers' rights group.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation overstepped the bounds of its authority when it imposed the ban last February, state Supreme Court Justice George Ceresia said.

He made the ruling in a lawsuit filed in April by New York City-based Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or CLASH.

Ceresia's ruling "was certainly a vindication of individual rights in the face of government overreach," one of CLASH's attorneys, Edward Paltzik, said.

The Office of Parks established in February the regulation prohibiting smoking in the public parks, swimming pools, beaches and historical monuments of New York state, even though the state legislature had passed no such measure.

Critics of the regulation say that banning tobacco in open spaces is an offense against individual liberties, and argue about what harmful effects second-hand smoke could have in an outdoor setting.

The restrictions are greater in New York City, which in March completed its first 10 smoke-free years in bars and restaurants thanks to an ordinance promoted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. EFE