Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez sponsored to protect public health by prohibiting smoking in public parks and on a majority of every beach throughout the state received final legislative approval 63-8-5 by the General Assembly.
The measure expands New Jersey's role as a leader in the public health movement. The state first banned smoking in indoor public places and workplaces in 2006.
"Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the state and the nation, and tobacco smoke constitutes a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority of the public," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The prohibition of smoking at public parks and beaches would better preserve the natural assets of this state by reducing litter and increasing fire safety in those areas, while lessening exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among the public. This is the right thing to do."
"It's clearly in the public interest to expand the law prohibiting smoking in all enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces to all public parks and beaches," said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). "This is common sense approach to maintain the beauty and pristine quality of our parks and beaches while also protecting public health. We'll all be better off if we get this done."
Provisions of the bill (A-1080) include the following:
· A complete prohibition on smoking at all state parks and forests and county and municipal parks.
· A prohibition on smoking throughout a vast majority of every beach. However, under a Senate amendment, up to 15 percent of a municipal or county beach's total area may be designated as a smoking area.
· The smoking ban would not apply to parking lots that are adjacent to but outside the public park or beach.
The bill defines "state park or forest" to mean any state owned or leased land, water or facility administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, including, but not limited to, a park, forest, recreational area, marina, historic site, burial site or natural area, but not including a wildlife management area or reservoir land.
The penalties that currently apply to a person who smokes in an indoor public place or workplace, or a person having control of the place who fails to comply with an order to enforce the smoking prohibition, in violation of the "New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act," would apply to a comparable violation of this bill. These include a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
The Department of Environmental Protection is directed to provide information and assistance to counties and municipalities, as determined appropriate by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and within the limits of resources available to the department for this purpose, to support smoke-free public parks and beaches.