Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Bob Smith that would ban smoking on New Jersey’s beaches was approved by the Senate Thursday, June 7. The bill, S-2534, would prohibit smoking on all public beaches by extending the existing provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act” to public beaches throughout the state.
The legislation was amended to extend the smoking ban to state, county and municipal parks, making it identical to the Assembly version. Approved by both houses, the measure now goes to the governor.
“This is an issue that impacts the environmental quality of the Jersey Shore, the health of beachgoers exposed to second-hand smoke, the quality of life for residents and visitors, and ultimately, the economic well-being of Shore communities,” said Senator Sweeney. “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.”
“The Jersey Shore has always been one of New Jersey’s most treasured natural assets,” said Senator Gopal. “We have the best beaches and the most desirable beachfront communities in the country – and we want to keep it that way. They have environmental and economic value that should not be lost or damaged by the ill effects of smoking on the beach. This legislation ensures that our beaches will be free of cigarette butts and our lungs free of smoke.”
“It’s time to get smoking off the beach,” said Senator Smith, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. “Not only do you have a nice beach for you and your kids and your grandkids, but you’re also cutting down the costs of maintenance for towns on the beach in terms of keeping them clean.”
Cigarette filters are among the top types of litter collected from beaches, according to environmental advocates, who collected an estimated 25,000 cigarette filters from New Jersey beaches in “beach sweeps” last year alone.
The smoking ban would not include beach parking lots and it would allow municipalities to designate up to 15 percent of a beach for permitted smoking, according to the legislation.
In 2005, under the original “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act,” the Legislature found and declared tobacco smoke to constitute a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority and found it in the public interest to prohibit smoking in most enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces. This bill amends the 2005 law to extend the ban to state, county, municipal beaches and state parks.
A violation of the proposed law would include a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. It would take effect 180 days after enactment.
Nationwide, more than 300 coastal communities have banned smoking on their beaches, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. In New Jersey, an increasing number of beach communities have enacted local smoking bans on their own in recent years, with at least 19 towns enacting the prohibition.
The Senate vote was 32-1.