Smoking could be banned on most Jersey beaches

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A bill that would ban smoking in parks on public beaches throughout New Jersey passed both houses of the State Legislature last week, and on Friday needed only the governor’s approval to become law.

A spokesman for the governor said Monday that the legislation is under review.

Even without Gov. Chris Christie’s signature, the bill could still be law by mid-August, one no-smoking advocate said, so long as the governor takes no other action.

Locally, Ocean City banned smoking on its boardwalk last week, as well as on the ramps and steps leading to it. The new law would extend Ocean City’s ban to the beach.

Robert Zlotnick, a spokesman for Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, said it’s unlikely that Christie would veto the bill.

“Not if he wants to be president,” Zlotnick said. “Because most adult Americans don’t smoke.”

Fifty years ago, nearly half of the adult population smoked cigarettes, but over the decades, that number has declined significantly as dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke became common knowledge, he said.

Now, just 15 percent of adult Americans smoke, and that’s why Zlotnick believes the Senate version of the bill is fair.

“Eighty-five percent of the adult population of New Jersey and out-of-state visitors that come and use our parks and beaches are non-smokers,” Zlotnick said.

“It doesn’t make sense for 100 percent of these areas to be smoking available when almost 100 percent of these people don’t smoke,”

However, as a former smoker, Zlotnick said that smokers, too, have rights.

“I think that 15 percent of beach for smokers is fair,” he said. “It’s about the number of people in New Jersey who smoke. It’s fair. That’s equitable.”

Zlotnick noted that new law targets more than secondhand smoke. Litter and environmental impact are also important benefits of the bill.

“The environmental impact of cigarette butts is that they can take up to seven years to degrade,” he said.

“Butts also have chemicals in them, and animals and children pick up butts and put them in their mouths.”

Participants in beach cleanups regularly report that cigarette butts make up a significant portion of litter on beaches.

The bill would extend the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act,” which prohibits smoking in public buildings, to apply to state, county and municipal parks, as well as state and municipal beaches. The Senate version of the bill allows for up to 15 percent of a beach to be designated as a smoking area.

Violators would be fined at least $250 for a first offense, $500 for the second office, and $1,000 for repeated violations.

In New Jersey, a bill becomes law upon the Governor's signature or after 45 days if no action is taken.



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