Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Limit on Outdoor Smoking Advances

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Limit on Outdoor Smoking Advances

Article excerpt

New Jersey smokers are already barred from lighting up in their offices, in restaurants and in shopping malls.

Soon public parks and beaches may be off-limits, too.

A ban on smoking in those outdoor spaces passed one of its final legislative hurdles on Monday, sailing through a Senate committee months after it passed the full Assembly with little opposition.

Its supporters say the ban would mean clearer air for park-goers and cleaner sand for castle-builders. It could also save animals from ingesting cigarette butts, they argued on Monday.

"We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars restoring our beaches after Hurricane Sandy," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told the Senate health committee. "We shouldn't turn them into ashtrays."

The ban advanced just as thousands of New Jerseyans are preparing to head to parks and beaches across the state for the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend.

Joe Scaffidi, manager at Beach House Cigars in Manasquan, said it was "ridiculous" to ban smoking on beaches.

"I get a ton of people who come in here" to grab a cigar before heading to the water, he said. "They'll buy one and just sit on the beach or walk down the boardwalk."

"That's how I relax after I get done here," he said from his shop as he prepared for the Memorial Day rush.

To become law, the prohibition still must make it through the full Senate and receive Governor Christie's signature. It would apply to all public beaches and parks, whether owned by the state, a county or a municipality.

A spokesman for Christie declined to comment on pending legislation.

Hundreds of New Jersey's parks and beaches already have smoking restrictions, and more have recently been added. Earlier this month, Belmar approved a smoking ban for its beaches and boardwalk that goes into effect this weekend.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director at the anti-smoking organization Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said 240 New Jersey municipalities have already restricted smoking in their parks.

Just this month, two more Bergen County municipalities added themselves to the list of those prohibiting smoking in parks. Fair Lawn's council voted last week to ban smoking in all 15 of the borough's parks. …

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