Smoking in a public place where it has been banned in New Jersey is now a criminal offense. A bill passed by the New Jersey Senate could change that.
Current law requires that violators be fined $200 with the possibility of jail time for a disorderly person’s offense.
Sen. Bob Gordon has sponsored legislation that would give towns the option of imposing the fine as a civil penalty.
“An awful lot of people want to be able to go to a park and not smell cigarette smoke or they want their kids to be able on play a beach without encountering cigarette butts,” said Gordon, D-Bergen. “So we want to enforce these laws in a way that gets the job done without giving people criminal records.”
And that, he said, might lead to stronger enforcement of anti-smoking laws in towns that were reluctant to charge violators with a crime.
The legislation is awaiting action in the Assembly.