By a vote of 51-6-4, the General Assembly on Thursday granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angelica Jimenez and Paul Moriarty to protect public health by prohibiting smoking at public parks and beaches.
The bill (A-893) would extend the provisions of the "New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act," which generally prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces, to apply to public parks and beaches throughout the state.
"There is a reason why New Jersey has some of the toughest anti-smoking policies in the country. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the nation, and second-hand smoke exposure has been linked to asthma, lung cancer and stroke," said Vainieri Huttle. "Prohibiting smoking in public parks and beaches reinforces our efforts to protect the public against these health risks, and makes our parks and beaches a safer, more enjoyable experience for New Jersey families."
"There is no denying the serious health risks associated with second-hand smoke. It's not only unpleasant; it is dangerous. Second-hand smoke is especially harmful to young children," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "Families should be able to enjoy a day on the beach or at the park without worrying about their children being exposed to the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke."
"Banning smoking in our beaches and parks would help lessen the exposure to second hand smoke, reduce the risk of fires, and reduce litter," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the world. Discarded cigarette butts can be ingested by children and wildlife. This ban would help lessen the health and environment impacts of smoking."
Provisions of the bill include the following:
· The smoking prohibition provided for under this bill would apply to any state park or forest, county or municipal park, or state, county or municipal beach, but would not include any parking lot that is adjacent to, but outside the public park or beach;
· The prohibition would not apply to a golf course;
· Municipal and county beaches would be allowed to designate an area, not to exceed 15 percent of the total area of the beach, as a smoking area.
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.
The bill would take effect on the 180th day after enactment. The bill was released by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee.