New Law Bans Smoking on Public Beaches

July 29, 2018
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By Jay Cook | 

By early next year, smoking on all of New Jersey’s beaches will be prohibited. Environmental advocates hope the ban will curb pollution statewide. Photo by Jay Cook

SEA BRIGHT – Melissa D’Anna was never a fan of smoking on the beach. And that was before she recently stepped on two lit cigarettes while giving surfing lessons in Long Branch.

“It’s just a nuisance,” said D’Anna, the owner of Lucky Dog Surf Co. in downtown Sea Bright. “If you want to hurt yourself and your life, it’s your choice. But do it elsewhere.”

D’Anna is just one of the many Two River-area residents who applauded a new state law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last week that will ban smoking and vaping on all public beaches and parks across New Jersey. It’s set to go into effect in January 2019.

Alongside other state officials in Long Branch July 20, Murphy said the law is designed to address public health issues and environmental concerns.

“The Jersey Shore has always been one of the state’s, and indeed our nation’s, great natural treasures and a place for families,” said Murphy. “Today, we’re only strengthening our commitment to the Shore.”

The bill is an extension of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 which prohibited smoking at any indoor public space or workplace. Smokers will no longer be allowed to light up on any municipal, county or state beach, park or forest.

First-time offenders could be fined $250. A second offense may cost $500 and any subsequent time after that can cost $1,000.

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Municipalities and counties, however, can use local legislation to set up a designated smoking area not exceeding 15 percent of the beach.

While there is some leeway designed in the law, it’s still a win for “fish and families,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action. Her organization conducts two beach sweeps annually and removed over 29,000 cigarette filters, 7,000 cigar tips, 1,100 lighters and 1,000 cigarette packs from nature just last year.

“A lot of people just view their world as an ashtray,” Zipf told The Two River Times this week. “But no longer is the beach going to be one.”

Some areas would be exempt from this legislation. The private beach clubs lining Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright wouldn’t have to adhere, said Zipf. It would be up to the individual club to put a ban in.

“It would be interesting to see if this would be a way for them to choose to either take part or not,” Zipf said of the beach clubs. “This is a step in the right direction.”

The same goes for national parks, like Gateway National Recreation Area where Sandy Hook is located. Guidelines dictated by the National Park Service only prohibit smoking within 25 feet of and inside any enclosed structure, as well as inside government-owned cars and boats.

Some beachgoers who spent the afternoon in Sea Bright this week were receptive to the new legislation, like Doug Rice, 62, of Rumson.

“No matter where you are, somebody’s going to be down-wind,” he said, before hopping back on his bicycle. “The other (bad) thing is the butts that go in the sand all the time.”

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Mel Martens, who was working a shift at Giglio’s Bait & Tackle, welcomed the ban.

“Being a former smoker and knowing people that’ve smoked for 50 years, having a designated area would make sense to me,” he added.

Martens, of Neptune, also believed a cultural change is underway. Fewer people are smoking and it’s for the better, he said.

“You don’t see ashtrays in cars anymore, do you?” Martens questioned.

Some people, though, think the law could be overreaching. That was Peter Lehmann’s opinion, a German citizen who was concluding a three-week tour of the East Coast at the Jersey Shore. He happened to be finishing a Seneca cigarette before paying the beach entrance fee.

“It’s a bizarre thing,” said Lehmann. “We have seen all over the United States that it’s quite complicated.”

“(Smokers) have to compromise all the time,” he added, “but to make it completely banned is too much.”

This article was first published in the July 26-Aug. 2, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times. 

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