Planned smoking ban for N.J. beaches/parks won’t be 100 percent

 A new amendment would allow for smoking zones (Photo courtesy of NJ Spotlight)

A new amendment would allow for smoking zones (Photo courtesy of NJ Spotlight)

For many New Jersey residents, there are few things more relaxing than enjoying the state’s beaches and parks. Lawmakers are deciding whether to make that experience even more enjoyable for nonsmokers – but more stressful for smokers — by banning lighting up on beaches and in parks.

The bill, S-1772 and A-1080, would expand the Smoke-Free Air Act to include state, county and municipal parks and beaches — but it would allow towns and counties to designate up to 20 percent of that land as smoking areas.

That amendment has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club, which said allowing designated smoking areas amounted to “gutting” the original proposal.

Bill sponsors noted that the ban will still be total, barring action taken by local governments.

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They also said the bill wouldn’t have advanced in the Legislature without the amendment.

Sponsor Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) said she proposed the bill both for health reasons, to protect people from second-hand smoke; for safety reasons, to reduce the risk of forest fires; and for the sake of tourism, to help beautify the beaches.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of providing no smoking in our enclosed areas and this takes a step to the out-of-doors,” said Turner, who paraphrased Smokey Bear’s warning that “only you can prevent wildfires.”

The measure won’t apply to public golf courses or to parking lots next to parks and beaches.

Turner said she hopes that park areas with forests won’t have any smoking areas.

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