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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K Turner and Joseph Vitale prohibiting smoking at public parks and beaches in the state cleared the full Senate today.  This bill would extend the provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act” to public parks and beaches throughout the State.

The bill, S-1734, would prohibit smoking at any State park or forest, county or municipal park, or State or municipal beach. However, it would not include any parking lot that is outside the public park or beach.

“Second hand smoke not only has serious health implications, cigarette butts that litter parks and beaches are hazardous and unsightly,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “This legislation is about keeping our residents healthy and our natural resources safe and clean. Our smoke free laws provide strong protection in the workplace and most indoor public places; however, they fail to provide protections against second hand smoke when our residents are attempting to enjoy quality family time at our parks and beaches.”

“With summer around the corner, individuals and families will be heading out to our state’s parks and beaches and they deserve to enjoy a clean and smoke-free environment,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Not only is it beneficial to public health and healthier for our natural environment, but reducing exposure to our youth at family-friendly places like the park and beach is vital to efforts that will prevent them from picking up the habit.”

A violation of this bill 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.  A penalty recovered through enforcement of this bill would be paid to the State Treasury if the plaintiff is the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, and to the treasury of the municipality in which the violation occurred if the plaintiff is the local board of health.

This bill amends the 2005 law to provide these protections at public parks and beaches throughout the State.  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 that it was in the public interest to prohibit smoking in most enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces.

“Decreasing the number of cigarette smokers in New Jersey will help to save lives, and in the long-term, it will reduce healthcare costs from smoking-related diseases. Our goal with this legislation is to create a healthy New Jersey and to reduce the likelihood that our youth will pick up the habit,” said Turner.

The bill would exempt golf courses and would permit a municipality or county to reserve up to 15 percent of a beach for permitted smoking.  The bill would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to provide information and assistance to counties and municipalities, within the limits of resources available to the department, to support smoke-free public parks and beaches.

S-1734 cleared the Senate 24-6 and now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.

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