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January 02, 2019

Smoking ban at New Jersey beaches and parks takes effect this month

Prevention Smoking Ban
New Jersey beach Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A beach in New Jersey.

Over the summer, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill banning smoking at New Jersey's public beaches and parks. The law is set to take effect on January 16.

While this may sound like a promising effort for public health, the law leaves room for towns to permit smoking in designated areas of their beaches and parks. 

It's also rather ambiguous as to who will enforce the ban — Murphy said it shouldn’t be lifeguards, but he left it up to towns to decide. "A lifeguard is there to save lives, first and foremost, for people in the water," Murphy told the Associated Press. "I don't want to add an extra burden to the lifeguard and take him or her away from their primary mission."

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who sponsored the bill, said lifeguards or local police could be called on to enforce the ban, CBS reported.

RELATED READ: U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on e-cigarette use, regulation and policies

The ban will extend to vaping, but allows towns to set up smoking areas on 15 percent of any given beach or park. Smokers will also be free to enjoy a smoke in parking lots.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smoking Police, or GASP, told the AP that more than half of New Jersey's more than 500 communities already restrict smoking and vaping on their beaches or in their parks. In fact, many New Jersey beaches – Ocean City and Wildwood among them – implemented the ban this past summer. 

Regardless, Cindy Zipf, executive director of the Clean Ocean Action environmental group, noted that volunteers picked up more than 29,000 cigarette filters from New Jersey beaches during two cleanups last year, the AP reported.

Fines for those caught smoking on beaches and in parks in New Jersey start at $250 for a first offense and go up to $1,000 for a third offense.

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