New Jersey may ban smoking on all public beaches

People enter the beach in Atlantic City, Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 28, 2016.

Visitors to Atlantic City's beach -- and every other public beach in New Jersey -- would not be allowed to smoke under a proposed law. (Anthony Smedile for WHYY)

 A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would prohibit smoking on all public beaches in the state.

A statewide ban would protect beach-goers from second-hand smoke and stem the tide of cigarette butts that are left on the beaches every year, said Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith.

“Not only do you have a nice beach for you and your kids and your grandkids, but you’re also cutting down the costs of maintenance for towns on the beach in terms of keeping them clean,” he said.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittle says it’s also a safety issue.

“There are times when I have seen on the beach where someone steps on a cigarette butt that wasn’t been put out properly and gets a burn,” said Tittel. “And there’s been times when someone flips butts under boardwalks and there have been fires.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie repeatedly vetoed bills to impose a statewide ban, saying it should be up to local communities to decide how to use their public spaces.

If Gov. Phil Murphy goes along with the latest effort to make it a state law, violators would be fined $250 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for repeat violations.

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