It’s Now Up to Gov. Murphy

Beaches, Parks Soon to Be Totally Smoke-Free in New Jersey

Jun 13, 2018

On June 7, both the N.J. Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly passed the bill to make all public parks and beaches 100 percent smoke-free and vape-free, meaning no e-cigarette usage. The bill heads to Gov. Murphy for his signature. Once signed into law, the bill would take effect in 180 days. Smoking would be permitted in adjacent parking lots, as well as on designated county or municipal beaches if adopted by the county or municipality, not to exceed 15 percent of the total beach area.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smoke-Free Policy, called the legislative action “an historic moment.”

“New Jersey will be the first state to make all local, county and state public parks and beaches 100 percent smoke-free and vape-free,” she said. “Once again, New Jersey is a leader when it comes to protecting people from secondhand smoke, and creating healthy outdoor environments for children. We are glad that the state is on top of what’s trending in tobacco and nicotine usage, and included e-cigarettes in their bill. Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggested that smoke-free policies include bans on using e-cigarettes, in light of the health and safety concerns with the devices, and to help de-normalize e-cigarette use since there’s a tripled increase in youth using e-cigarettes in the USA.”

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement, “This is an issue that impacts the environmental quality of the Jersey Shore, the health of beach-goers exposed to second-hand smoke, the quality of life for residents and visitors, and ultimately, the economic well-being of Shore communities. We don’t want our beaches littered with cigarette butts, the air polluted with smoke or the ocean wildlife exposed to threat of discarded cigarettes.”

Blumenfeld said smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease, which is why GASP has worked on smoke-free parks and beaches for more than 15 years, and educated hundreds of New Jersey towns on the benefits of making parks and beaches smoke-free.

“More than one-half of New Jersey towns and counties already restrict smoking/vaping in their parks and/or beaches, and we thank the early adopters for trail-blazing, and state leaders for expanding it to all parks and beaches.”

She said according to GASP’s database, 100 percent smoke-free beaches already exist in Beach Haven, Little Egg Harbor Township and Long Beach Township among numerous other shore communities.

“Many other New Jersey towns and counties also restrict smoking and vaping in their parks and on the beaches,” she said.

For example, Harvey Cedars restricts smoking between the flags, authorized by an ordinance adopted in 2013.

“I like having a complete ban,” said Harvey Cedars Borough Commissioner Michael Garofalo. “As a nonsmoker, secondhand smoke offends me. When you go to the beach, you should enjoy the fresh air and not have to breathe cigarette  smoke.”

Beach Haven beaches have been completely smoke-free since 2016.

“The state is doing the right thing,” said Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis. “At first, we thought of beaches having some smoking stations, but realized that it’s best to ban smoking altogether.”

Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, applauded the move.

“The beaches will be much better for it,” she said. “When people smoked on the beach, the beaches were littered with cigarette butts. That’s very unsightly, and now our beaches and parks will be completely smoke-free and a lot cleaner.”

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net.

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