For the third time in four years, legislators in New Jersey will take up the issue of a smoking ban for parks, forests and beaches, but this year, it has a chance of being approved without falling victim to a gubernatorial veto.
Eight members of the Assembly have co-sponsored A1703, which was introduced at the start of the new session and has since been referred to the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee, where it is currently awaiting further action.
Similar to previous versions, the bill seeks to add all public parks and beaches to the state’s existing smoking ban, as it states that “the prohibition of smoking at public parks and beaches would better preserve the natural assets of this state by reducing litter and increasing fire safety in those areas, while lessening exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among the public.”
Specifically, it adds a definition for public park and beaches, with the term used to mean a state park or forest, a county or municipal park, or a state, county, or municipal beach. It does not include any parking lot that is adjacent to but outside the public park or beach. Should it pass, violators would be subject to the same fines that are currently in place under the state’s existing ban: up to $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
While the bill would snuff out smoking in a number of places within the state, it also adds two exemptions: one for golf courses, and the other for up to 15 percent of a municipal or county beach that could be designated as a smoking area by the municipality or county by ordinance or resolution.
Similar bans have been passed in 2014 and 2016, only to be vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie, who didn’t feel that it was the state’s place to tell cities and towns that they had to ban smoking on their parks and beaches. In 2016, Christie proposed banning smoking at state-owned parks and beaches, but the legislature didn’t take up the suggestion.
However, with Christie replaced by Democrat Phil Murphy, there is speculation that the bill could get the new governor’s signature. In a recent email advisory, the Cigar Association of America indicated that it believes the bill has “a high likelihood” of getting Murphy’s signature should it reach his desk.
If the bill is passed and signed into effect by the governor, it would go into effect after 180 days.