(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez sponsored to protect public health by prohibiting smoking in public parks and beaches throughout the state was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
New Jersey already bans smoking in indoor public places and workplaces. As of January 2, 2014, more than 180 municipalities in the United States have enacted smoke-free beach laws, including 14 municipalities in New Jersey. (This count does not include municipalities that have restricted smoking to certain areas of beaches.) Approximately 900 municipalities in the United States have enacted smoke-free park laws, including 107 municipalities in New Jersey.
“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the state and the nation, and tobacco smoke constitutes a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority of the public,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The prohibition of smoking at public parks and beaches would better preserve the natural assets of this state by reducing litter and increasing fire safety in those areas, while lessening exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among the public. This is the right thing to do.”
“It’s clearly in the public interest to expand the law prohibiting smoking in all enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces to all public parks and beaches,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “This is common sense approach to maintain the beauty and pristine quality of our parks and beaches while also protecting public health. We’re all better off if we get this done.”
The bill (A-1080) provides specifically as follows:
- The smoking prohibition provided for under this bill would apply to any state park or forest, county or municipal park, or state or municipal beach, but would not include any parking lot that is adjacent to but outside the public park or beach.
- The bill defines “state park or forest” to mean any state owned or leased land, water or facility administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, including, but not limited to, a park, forest, recreational area, marina, historic site, burial site or natural area, but not including a wildlife management area or reservoir land.
- The Department of Environmental Protection is directed to provide information and assistance to counties and municipalities, as determined appropriate by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and within the limits of resources available to the department for this purpose, to support smoke-free public parks and beaches.
- The penalties that currently apply to a person who smokes in an indoor public place or workplace, or a person having control of the place who fails to comply with an order to enforce the smoking prohibition, in violation of the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act,” would apply to a comparable violation of this bill. These include a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense
- The Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Environmental Protection, are directed to adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this bill.
- The bill takes effect on the 180th day after enactment, but authorizes the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Environmental Protection to take anticipatory administrative action in advance as necessary for its implementation.
Smoking bans in public parks and beaches are in effect in nearly 2,600 municipalities across the country–a near doubling in the last five years. More than 300 municipalities in the State of New York, for example, have passed regulations restricting tobacco use in parks, playgrounds, beaches, pools, athletic areas, pavilions, and other outdoor recreational areas.
The bill was released by the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee.