With more than 40,000 people dying every year due to secondhand smoke, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Herb Conaway and Eliana Pintor Marin have sponsored a bill further reducing the public’s exposure to its harmful effects. The legislation was signed into law Tuesday.
The law (formerly bill A-5028) prohibits smoking in the outdoor passenger pick-up and drop-off area of any non-federal or military-owned New Jersey airport. Although smoking is already banned indoors, this will prevent smoke from seeping into indoor baggage claim areas and travelers from having to breathe in smoke as they wait for pick-up.
“Millions of people pass through New Jersey airports every year as they travel to and from our state,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “It isn’t fair to the many passengers and families waiting outside – including seniors and infants in strollers – to have to breathe in cigarette or vaping smoke. This issue is a public health concern for many New Jerseyans and visitors.”
“When it comes to secondhand smoke, we know the harm it can do to a person, especially children,” said Assemblyman Conaway (D-Burlington). “Exposure can cause serious health issues from asthma attacks to an increased risk for strokes, lung cancer and coronary heart disease. By not allowing individuals to smoke in this particular area, we protect passengers, families and children who shouldn’t be around secondhand smoke.”
This law is named in memory of the late James Nicholas Rentas, a spirited, gregarious, and hardworking Bayonne restauranteur and businessman who smoked cigarettes for 30 years and possessed the determination and fortitude to quit smoking following a heart attack at age 50. He later died in 2007 after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer a decade after quitting cigarettes. Physicians attributed his death in part to past tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
“No child or adult should have to struggle to breathe while they wait excitedly to pick up a relative at the airport or go on a trip with their families,” said Assemblywoman Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “No one should be subjected to secondhand smoke because someone is smoking nearby and they can’t easily move to another location to avoid it. This law will help protect people who choose not to smoke.”