NJ beach smoking ban: $250 fine for lighting up now in Murphy's hands
A bill making its way through the New Jersey state Senate would ban smoking on all public beaches.
For those tired of cigarette butts lodged beneath their beach towels and dotting the shoreline of the Jersey Shore, you're in luck.
New Jersey beachgoers might enjoy smoke-free beach trips next summer thanks to the Legislature approving a bill Thursday banning smoking at public beaches and parks. It now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy, who must approve it to become law.
The bill would extend the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act to ban smoking from beaches and parks along with the already mandated indoor public places and workplaces. Watch the video above for more about the proposed law.
Attached to the bill is a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for the second. Each offense after that would bring a $1,000 fine.
Sue Hayes of Ridgewood said the impact of the ban on the environment is the main reason for her support of the bill.
“I’m 100 percent for it,” Hayes said from the beach in Asbury Park. “(The cigarettes) are detrimental to our environment. People throw cigarettes on the ground and don’t pick up after themselves. It’s bad for the birds, the fish, everything.”
Megan Mosakowski of Jackson, also on the Asbury Park beach, echoed Hayes’ opinions and says cleaner beaches would contribute to a better beach experience.
“Coming to the beach and seeing cigarettes all over the place is annoying, so getting it banned and having cleaner beaches and not being around the pollution would be nice,” she said.
The ban would also apply to any state park or forest, county or municipal park or beach. The measure provides for smoking areas in parking lots adjacent to those places, not exceeding 15 percent of the total area.
It's not the first time the Legislature has passed a statewide band on smoking at public beaches. Former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a previous effort, saying the decision should be left to individual towns.
Nineteen New Jersey beaches already have a ban in place, including Belmar, which, according to longtime resident and beach badge-checker Ken Teahl, moved designated smoking areas from the waterfront to the edge of the boardwalk.
“They used to put chains up, and you would smoke inside that area. They did away with that four or five years ago,” he said. “I think (the bill) is a good thing because of the nonsmokers. Why should they have to inhale something they don’t like or do in the first place? It’s bad for their health.”
Dana Blowstein of Jackson, an avid smoker and beachgoer, said she practiced conscientious smoking for years, before any bans were put in place. She said she hopes the bill encourages others to do the same.
“I don’t like to smoke on the beach because I don’t like putting my cigarette butts in the sand,” Blowstein said from the Belmar beach. “When I was able to smoke at the beach, I would put them out, save them and throw them away. I want my beach to be clean and pristine.”
Not everyone is supportive of the bill though, with many pointing out that the smoking ban adds to the large list of things the government no longer permits.
“I think it’s pretty outlandish because its legal in other states,” said Asbury Park resident Nafi Tov. “It’s turning a right into a privilege.”
“It’s just another thing you can’t do,” added Joe Romano of Allenhurst. “It’s negative. It’s Big Brother looking at you and telling you what you can and can’t do.”
If signed by Murphy, the bill will go into effect six months after its signed, giving smokers one more summer to enjoy smoking on their favorite beaches.