Trenton's smoking ban a win for the community | Editorial

Editorial Times of Trenton

Trenton's leaders are making it harder for smokers to impose their nasty habit on others. Hurray for them.

Thanks to a policy adopted this month, if you fire up a cigarette in any of the city's parks or recreational areas, you'll be staring at a fine of up to $500. Same deal if you smoke in any city facility or city-owned vehicle.

Does this sound draconian? Not compared with the toll that smoking takes on human lungs.

"Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in this country, and everyone is well aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke in this day and age," state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said in September.

Vainieri Huttle was responding to news that Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a highly popular bill that would have banned smoking in public parks and limited lighting up at the state's public beaches.

Environmentalists and anti-smoking advocates had lauded the bill, saying it would cut down on second-hand smoke, reduce litter and reduce the threat of fires.

Despite the governor's nod to Big Tobacco, New Jersey has a well-earned reputation for being tough on smoking. The state banned smoking in indoor public places in 2006, and raised the age that residents can buy tobacco from 18 to 19 – both significant health-saving measures.

Trenton's new ordinance, which was overwhelmingly approved with only one "no" vote, applies to anyone smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes and electronic cigarettes.

Violators will be subject to fines of between $50 and $100 for a first offense, with the fees ranging upwards from there for subsequent offenses.

Designated areas will carry signs reading "Smoke-free zone," and the city's health department will be in charge of enforcing the policy.

Smokers and tobacco merchants are going to gripe – you can bet the house on it. Cries of "Nanny state!" will fly. But evidence of the damage inflicted on the environment by smokers is irrefutable, and the sight of cigarette butts and used matches despoiling otherwise lovely parks is downright disgusting.

Trenton is far from alone in protecting its parks from the devastation that smoking inflicts. In the past year alone, Bogota, Millburn, Belleville, Allendale, Franklin Lakes and Metuchen were among municipalities enacting bans, joining the ranks of dozens of others already so committed.

We sympathize with smokers, we really do. But their right to indulge their habit/addiction ends where park-goers' right to health begins.