NEW JERSEY – A Farleigh Dickinson University poll has found that 74% of New Jersey citizens are opposed to smoking on beaches.
A bill to prohibit smoking in public parks and beaches, A893 (Vainieri Huttle) passed both houses almost a month ago, but has yet to be acted on by the New Jersey Governor.
The bill extends the New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act, which generally prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces by adding public parks and beaches. The Governor has vetoed this legislation in the past. The Sierra Club has been working on this bill since 2010. More than 240 municipalities and 12 counties had passed ordinances banning smoking in parks and there are more than a dozen bans on smoking on beaches.
“A new poll says that 74% of people oppose smoking on the beach. The Legislature has voted to oppose smoking on beaches multiple times. However, Gov. Christie doesn’t care about the impact of second-hand smoke to children or other people on the beaches. He has vetoed this legislation in the past and we expect him to do it again with A893. He only panders to out-of-state special interests like the tobacco lobbyists. This is why he has refused to sign the legislation that would ban smoking in public beaches and parks. The public supports it and the Legislature has passed it overwhelmingly. The only thing that has stopped it is Gov. Christie,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Cigarettes are an environmental problem. They can be ingested by animals and marine life or even children playing in the sand or at the park. Cigarette butts have been found in stomachs of animals like whales, sea turtles and birds, which could lead to death. An article published in Current Environmental Health Reports, a scientific journal, found that around 4.5 to 6 trillion cigarettes worldwide do not end up in ashtrays instead littering our streets and beaches. Cigarettes contain toxins like nicotine and pesticides in their plastic fibers further harming the environment.
“Second-hand smoke is an environmental and health threat to our families and banning cigarettes would do a lot to protect us. However, Gov. Christie would rather side with the tobacco lobby and veto this legislation. Every year at our annual beach cleanup volunteers pick up tons of cigarettes on one beach, in just two hours. Cigarettes not only pose a risk to human health, but cause harm to our environment and animals. That is why we need a statewide ban. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill and protect New Jersey’s beaches and parks by banning the butt,” said Jeff Tittel. “Under this legislation, towns can set aside 15% on beaches for smoking. We don’t like the exemption and believe there needs to be rules to make sure that we keep these areas away from playgrounds and other places children frequent.”
Offciials say it could also be dangerous with some people failing to completely put out their cigarette butts. People or animals could step on these and burn themselves. Cigarettes could also potentially lead to boardwalk or forest fires. If butts are not fully extinguished, anything from a picnic table to a boardwalk or even dry vegetation could go up in flames.
“Cigarettes have caused forest fires in the past and by allowing smoking in our parks we are putting them at risk for destruction. They could damage picnic areas or historic buildings. They could also set areas of beaches on fire, including picnic tables or boardwalks. The Jersey shore has had enough damage, we don’t need the added risk of a cigarette burning boardwalks down,” said Tittel. “We shouldn’t be turning our beaches into ash trays and letting people step on cigarettes in the sand.”
Some towns have already put in place laws and ordinances dealing with smoking including Seaside Park, where smoking is banned on all beaches and boardwalks. Long Branch and Sunset Beach in Cape May County are also smoke free. Smoking is banned on the boardwalk in Belmar, and on sections of its beaches.
“Having smoke free beaches and parks would encourage tourism, while protecting both our health and the environment. Cigarettes are a major source of litter and pollution, while also being a threat to public safety. A complete ban will not only benefit public health, but our environment. We are spending all this money rebuilding our beaches and now we should not turn them into ashtrays,” said Tittel. “We may need the Legislature to step in and override his veto. Before Hurricane Irene, the Governor told everyone to ‘get the hell off the beach.’ Why doesn’t he say the same thing to cigarettes to protect our families and environment.