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Sweeney-Gopal Bill Would Ban Smoking on NJ Beaches

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Vin Gopal that would ban smoking on New Jersey’s beaches was approved by a Senate committee today. The bill, S-2534, endorsed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, 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 Jersey Shore is one of our most valued treasures and we are proud to have some of the best beaches and most desirable Shore communities in the country,” said Senator Sweeney. “They have environmental and economic value that is impossible to quantify. The beaches and ocean waters should be shielded from cigarette butts and the beachgoers should be protected from second-hand smoke.”

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.

“New Jersey has some of the finest beaches in the country,” said Senator Gopal. “We are willing to fight to keep off-shore drilling away from our shore and clamp down on harmful emissions from coal plants in neighboring states from fouling our air, yet we haven’t taken a strong enough stand against smokers sending hazardous fumes into the faces of families enjoying a day at the beach. This legislation ensures that our beaches will be free of cigarette butts and our lungs free of smoke.”

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 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 to state, county and municipal beaches.

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.