LONGPORT – The Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance Wednesday, March 22 that bans smoking of any kind at all borough buildings, parks and recreation facilities, including the beach.
The ordinance prohibits the burning or smoking of cigarettes, cigars, pipes and electronic smoking devices. The ban includes playgrounds, ball fields, and any other property owned or leased by the borough where people gather for recreation activities as well as the facilities adjacent to them, including parking areas and driveways. Anyone who violates the provision is subject to a fine of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Resident Susan Venesz called the smoking ban “ludicrous.”
Ordinances banning ball playing and alcohol consumption on the beach are rarely enforced, she said.
“Every rule you put up there is never enforced,” she said. “But now we’re going to put up signs that you will get fined and put in jail for smoking? Why is everything else ignored?”
Smokers will just go up to the bulkhead to “smoke their lungs out,” and people on the beach won’t like that, Venesz said.
“I’m telling you, this summer, I see a kid playing ball, I’m smoking whatever I got,” she said.
Under the ordinance the penalty for a violation is up to $250 for the first offense, up to $500 for the second offense and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Others said they were pleased to see the ordinance up for a vote and encouraged the commissioners to adopt it. Mayor Nicholas Russo, who advocated for the ordinance, was absent.
Douglas Farrell, a retired dentist who has lived in Longport for 36 years, said smoking on the beach has “gotten out of hand.”
Farrell said he asked the mayor to implement a ban five years ago, and that he is worried about both secondhand smoke and the littering of cigarette butts.
“Unfortunately, people do not bring ashtrays to the beach,” he said. “Cigarette butts have gotten worse. No one can clean all that up.”
Farrell commended the commission for keeping the idea of banning smoking on the beach alive and said he would be available to help create awareness in the community.
“If there’s anything I can do in the community to create awareness, count me in,” he said.
Sustainable Margate member Steve Jasiecki said most of the trash picked up on the beach during the semiannual beach sweeps is cigarette butts.
“A lot of people use the beach like one large ashtray,” Jasiecki said. “If everyone was responsible, we wouldn’t have this litter on the beach.”
Jasiecki also expressed concern for small children and sea life who might ingest a butt filled with toxic chemicals.
“Ingesting just two cigarette butts should send a child to the hospital. We have a serious issue with plastics and other pollutants getting in the water,” he said.
Autopsies conducted on large sea birds, such as the albatross, show their stomachs are “littered with our garbage,” he said.
“Longport is doing a good thing for sustainability,” Jasiecki said. “We are trying to get people aware of their behavior so we can try to correct these problems, and we can have a good sustainable future for our children.”
Resident Lee Diamond of Margate said he often walks the beach and picks up trash, mostly plastic.
“Because of the problem we have with sea animal mortality, as a shore community, we need to take a leadership role and deal with the dilemma,” he said.
Solicitor Pacifico “Pat” Agnellini said that while the governor vetoed bills calling for a statewide smoking ban, he did so to leave it up to municipalities to decide the issue.
“It would be easier if it was a state action, but making the municipalities do it and own it, you are also getting the word out and awareness out and having discussions at a local level, and that is a good thing,” Agnellini said.
Robert Zlotnick of Atlantic Prevention Resources, who also represents Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey in the southern part of the state, said the organization would give the borough tobacco-free signs to be installed on the beach.
“This is not just about litter or secondhand smoke, it’s about modeling for children,” Zlotnick said. “When people see people smoke, it becomes a normalized behavior. When kids see smoking, they are more likely to smoke themselves.”
Ventnor resident Beth Kwart, who chairs the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey Chapter, which advocates for a clean ocean in Atlantic and Cape May counties through the the No Butts on the Beach campaign, said she hopes Longport takes enforcement of the new ordinance seriously.