EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Snuff out that cigarette and leave the electronic smoking device in the car when you drop the kids off at sports practices here – because smoking and use of tobacco products of all kinds is now prohibited at the township’s parks and sports complexes.

Township Committee unanimously approved an ordinance banning the same at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 16.

There was no public comment opposing the measure, but representatives from Atlantic Prevention Resources spoke in support.

Kim Burns, a staff member and coordinator of the organization’s outreach Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, said she felt the ban on smoking at township recreation properties is a step in the right direction.

‘It’s good for the residents, and it’s especially good for the children,” said Burns, who lives in Egg Harbor Township and a member of the township Municipal Alliance, which works toward preventing substance abuse through programming and education.

“Unfortunately, in Atlantic County our smoking rates are extremely high, for several reasons,” Burns said, noting that among children, traditional cigarette smoking is down, but “combustible” or electronic cigarettes are becoming more popular.

She said Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey can provide free signage to the township to inform residents of the new law.

Three Egg Harbor Township High School students – Tiffany Sanchez, Taylor Edwards and Ann Pearson – also thanked the committee for implementing the ban. All are members of Stand Up and Rebel, a student group that works to prevent substance abuse.

“Smoking is habit that not only hurts individuals, but it also hurts others,” Pearson said.

Sanchez said that by preventing adults from smoking near children at the parks, kids will begin to understand that smoking is not a healthy choice.

The ordinance prohibits the smoking of any device, including cigars, pipes and both traditional and electronic cigarettes. All tobacco products would also be prohibited under the proposed law, including loose-leaf and chewing, dipping and dissolvable tobacco.

The penalty for violation of the ordinance is a fine of $100 to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to 90 days or community service of up to 90 days, according to the township’s existing code for parks.

“Each and every violation shall be considered a separate violation,” the code states.

The idea of a smoking ban was raised by the township Recreation Commission, which after years of discussions agreed to request it at a July general meeting of the youth sports organization.

The Recreation Commission took an official and unanimous 8-0 vote in favor of the proposed ban in 2014; however, the Nov. 18 meeting marked the first time the Township Committee took action on the matter.

In an informal online poll conducted by The Current in July, 74 percent of the votes cast were in favor of a full smoking ban at the parks, with 23.4 percent of votes cast in favor of a designated smoking space instead of a full ban. Some 5.2 percent voted against a ban.

Nearby towns have passed laws that ban smoking at municipal parks and athletic fields. Among Atlantic County’s 23 municipalities, 11 have such smoking bans of some sort. Some 282 out of the 565 towns in New Jersey have policies banning outdoor smoking in these areas.

According to Global Advisors Smokefree Policy, the Atlantic County towns that have adopted ordinances that restrict smoking are Atlantic City, Absecon, Brigantine, Egg Harbor City, Hamilton Township, Hammonton, Linwood, Northfield, Pleasantville, Somers Point and Ventnor.

Atlantic County bans smoking at county parks and recreational properties. Cape May County towns that have banned outdoor smoking are Cape May Point, Lower Township, Middle Township, Ocean City, Stone Harbor and Upper Township. Cape May County has banned smoking at its zoo.

Email Laura at laura.stetser@catamaranmedia.com. Call her at 609-601-5194. Follow her on social media @EHTCurrent and @TheMomsBeat.

Staff writer Laura Stetser covers Egg Harbor Township and writes the weekly column The Mom's Beat. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @EHTCurrent, @LauraStetser and @TheMomsBeat.