Gov. Christie says no to bill that would ban smoking at beaches, public parks

    (Photo: Shnnn via Flickr Creative Commons)

    (Photo: Shnnn via Flickr Creative Commons)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he supports banning smoking in state-owned parks and beaches, but has vetoed a measure that would require towns to implement the ban.

    Christie on Friday conditionally vetoed a measure that 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,” according to the bill passed by the legislature in May. 

    The governor says he abhors smoking, but that it should be left to towns to decide whether to ban it.

    The ban would have allowed towns to set aside up to 15 percent of a beach for smoking. The ban also would not apply to parking lots adjacent to public parks or beaches. 

    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. 

    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. 

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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