N.J. moves to ban smoking at beaches, parks

An Assembly committee has advanced legislation that would ban smoking at public parks and beaches in New Jersey.

Even in outdoor areas, second-hand smoke can be harmful, said Cara Murphy of Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP) during a legislative hearing Thursday.

“Smoke-free air benefits everyone. It not only benefits tourism as people are able to go to smoke-free beaches, but it also benefits children who wants to use parks and recreation areas,” she said. “It also benefits anyone who wants to quit using tobacco because you’re no longer around the presence of tobacco.”

Supporters say the ban would help keep beaches clean and prevent fires in parks.

It also reflects changes in New Jersey where about 85 percent of the population doesn’t smoke, said Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, the bill’s sponsor.

“More and more people understand now the hazards of secondhand smoke,” said Huttle, D-Bergen. “They also understand the littering issue on beaches and of course the fire hazards in the forests and the parks.”

If the bill becomes law, smokers who light up on the beach or in a park would face fines up to a thousand dollars.

A similar bill was introduced in the previous legislative session, but it failed to win approval.

Huttle said she hopes the latest version becomes law by the time people go back to the beaches this summer.

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