Gov. Phil Murphy signs NJ beach smoking ban with $250 fine
Gov. Phil Murphy signs legislation banning smoking at public beaches and parks during a visit to the Long Branch boardwalk. Asbury Park Press
LONG BRANCH - Say goodbye to cigarette butts in the sand!
Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed into law a revision of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act that will ban smoking on public beaches and in public parks.
The prohibition goes into effect early next year and covers all local and state-owned beaches. Violators caught smoking on the beach will be subject to a $250 fine on the first offense, a $500 fine on the second offense and a $1,000 fine on future violations.
"We're not just taking action on a critical health issue in our state, but a critical environmental issue," Murphy said shortly before signing the bill. "While many of us may look out and see white sand and surf, others regrettably see the Jersey Shore as a roughly 130-mile-long ashtray."
The New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act already bans smoking at indoor public spaces and workplaces. The beach-centric additions allow for municipalities to set up specific smoking areas on no more than 15 percent of the beach, in addition to parking lots.
The law does not state whether enforcement would come at the hands of lifeguards, beach patrols or police officers, though Murphy anticipated it would come from the person "at the point of attack."
"But lifeguards are there to save lives," he said. "I don't want to add an extra burden onto the lifeguards and take them away from their primary mission.
Nearly every municipality with a public beach along the Jersey Shore has either a smoking ban or restrictions, as do many private beaches, such as Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant Beach.
The practice began in Belmar, which instituted a summertime beach smoking ban in 2001 and began enforcing it year-round in 2014.
This is the third time the Legislature has passed a beach smoking ban in the last five years, passing overwhelmingly in the Legislature, with just one "no" vote coming in both the Senate and Assembly.
Former Gov. Chris Christie twice vetoed a statewide beach smoking ban, arguing that the state shouldn't "impose its will" upon local governments. In 2016, he instead called for a bill focusing solely on state beaches and parks.
"It's taken us 12 years. Now it's finally reality," said Jeff Tittel, president of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "We have turned our beaches into ashtrays. We have allowed damage to our state parks from careless cigarettes. For us, this is a great day and that's because finally after 12 years of trying, we finally have a bill that benefits all of us."
FLASHBACK: Christie vetoes NJ beach smoking ban
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