New Jersey may lessen penalty for smoking ban violators

 State capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

State capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

Violating bans on smoking in public places in New Jersey towns could soon result in a fine instead of a disorderly person’s charge.

The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a measure that Sen. Bob Gordon said will make the penalty less onerous.

“If the municipalities choose to enforce it, the penalties would be civil — as opposed to criminal,” he said. “It is currently mandated in the statute that it’s a low-level criminal offense, but still a criminal offense, and we thought that’s a bit excessive.”

Gordon said the change could cause towns to increase enforcement of their smoking bans.

It’s now up to Gov. Chris Christie to decide whether to sign the measure into law.

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