New Jersey again looks to make beaches, parks smoke free

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Toni Yates is live in Belmar with the latest details.

Measures to restrict smoking at public beaches and ban it entirely at parks are scheduled for a vote in the New Jersey Legislature.

The Senate and Assembly are expected to give final approval Thursday to a bill that was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2014 that would ban smoking at publicly-owned beaches and parks.

The bill would enable municipalities to set aside 15 percent of the beach as a designated smoking area, but that would not apply to parks.

Senate President Steve Sweeney calls the bill a way to keep secondhand smoke away from non-smokers and children. He also says it will help keep beaches cleaner without thousands of cigarette butts discarded in the sand.

"We are here to announce the next step in trying to improve public health for the millions of people who come to our beaches every year," Sweeney said at a news conference on the boardwalk in Belmar.

Joining Sweeney were Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action, John Weber of the SurfRider Foundation, Tim Dillingham of the Littoral Society and Lynn Nowak, from the American Cancer Society.

"We banned smoking on the Belmar beaches and the number of beach users increased, which shows that people want clean and healthy recreational attractions," Doherty said. "I believe we have the best beaches there are and we want to keep them that way. Smoke-free beaches will make them better."

A violation of this bill would 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 bill, which would exempt golf courses, would take effect 180 days after enactment.

In the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2005, the law that serves as the foundation for the beach smoking ban, the Legislature found and declared tobacco smoke to constitute a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority and found that it was in the public interest to prohibit smoking in most enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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