Should NJ Ban Smoking at Beaches and Parks? [AUDIO]
The state Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee advanced a proposal Thursday that would prohibit smoking in popular outdoor locales.
The measure could be the next in a string of similar bills previously passed in New Jersey, such as a 2006 ban on indoor smoking -- with exemptions for some casino areas -- and a 2010 amendment outlawing indoor use of electronic smoking devices.
Ever since those provisions went into effect, Garden State lawmakers have been looking to expand anti-smoking legislation statewide.
"My bill would apply to any state, county or local park and forest, and public beaches," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood). "It would prohibit smoking."
The smoking ban would not include parking lots adjacent to, but still outside, the public parks and beaches. Under the legislation, the Department of Environmental Protection is directed to provide information and help to counties and towns to support smoke-free parks and beaches.
"I have gotten a lot of phone calls from those people that are on the beach that inhale secondhand smoke," Vainieri Huttle said. "Cigarette butts certainly pollute the beaches and people would like to feel their toes in the sand, not upon cigarette butts."
The bill was first introduced in 2009, but has stalled at various points through the legislative process. Vainieri Huttle hopes it will become law this time around.
"Maybe it's a bill whose time has come," said Vainieri Huttle, who also emphasized the importance of this bill having "real teeth" if it is to be effective.
The measure does include hefty fines.
"It would be $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense," Vainieri Huttle said.