New Jersey lawmakers are once again attempting to restrict smoking at public parks and beaches.
A bill that cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens yesterday seeks to extend the provisions of the state Smoke Free Air Act. It now heads to the full Senate.
The legislation would ban cigarette, cigar, pipe, and electronic device smoking in any state park or forest, county or municipal park, or state or municipal beach.
“The prohibition of smoking at public parks and beaches would better preserve the natural assets of this state by reducing litter and increasing fire safety in those areas, while lessening exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among the public,” the bill states.
However, the measure exempts golf courses and would allow a municipality or county to set aside 15% of a park or beach for a smoking area.
According to the legislation, “a person having control of an indoor public place or workplace or a public park or beach” will enforce the law by ordering anyone in violation to comply.
Anyone continuing to smoke after receiving an order to stop will be subject to a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
“This bill would improve the health of the people of New Jersey by prohibiting smoking in public parks and beaches. This legislation will not only help us all breathe easier but it will also help to protect parks and beaches from damages and fires caused by careless smokers,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. “This will go a long way to prevent litter in our parks and state beaches. We believe banning smoking in public parks and beaches is an important step forward for the environment and our health.”
In Sept. 2014, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill, saying smoking prohibitions should be enacted at the local level.
Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the governor’s veto was a blow to public health and the environment.
“We will definitely try to get the advocates together, get the legislators together, and see if we can have an override,” said Huttle, D-Bergen in 2014.
Numerous coastal communities already prohibit smoking on beaches, including Belmar, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Harvey Cedars, Long Branch, and Lavallette.
NewsWorks’ Phil Gregory contributed to this report.