Trenton, NJ: A bill to prohibit smoking in public parks and beaches S1734 (Turner) has been vetoed by the Governor. The bill passed by a majority in both houses of the legislature, but Governor Christie have vetoed it for the third time. 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 Sierra Club has been working on this bill since 2010.

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“By vetoing this legislation the Governor sided with the tobacco lobby over protecting our environment and public health. Instead of trying to protect our parks and health he is turning them into ash tray. He is doing this because of his national political ambitions against what is best for the people of New Jersey. This legislation would have helped us all breathe easier and protect our health. Instead now our parks are at ricks from damages and fires from careless smokers. Beach goers will still be burdened with unnecessary second hand smoke while trying to enjoy a day at the beach. All because Governor Christie has a higher office in mind,” 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.

 

“Governor Christie has clearly given smokers a free pass. He has vetoed this bill three times even though this time we tried to make a compromise and include designated areas for smokers. Cigarettes not only threaten public health, but are a major source of litter and pollution. After the state has spent millions of dollars restoring the shore after Hurricane Sandy our beaches and boardwalks will continue to be giant ashtrays trashing our environment and harming our public health,” said Jeff Tittel.  We tried to compromise with this bill, but Governor Christie still didn’t sign it because he rather protect polluters over public health. In this bill, 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.”

Cigarettes could also potentially lead to boardwalk or forest fires. It also could be dangerous with some people failing to completely put out their cigarette butts. People or animals could step on these and burn themselves. If butts are not fully extinguished, anything from a picnic table to a boardwalk or even dry vegetation could go up in flames.

 

We need to ban smoking on public parks and beaches because they have led to forest fires in the past. 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 Jeff Tittel. “We shouldn’t be turning our beaches into ash trays and letting people step on cigarettes in the sand.”

 

Smoking is not only an environmental issue, but a health issue as well. Even when you set aside a smoking area on the beach it affects the people next to it and affects other people. People enjoying a day on the beach or at the park have to deal with second hand smoke. Towns have already put in place laws and ordinances dealing with smoking including Seaside Park which 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. A stateside ban will benefit our environment, tourism, and public health.

 

“Instead of enhancing tourism and public health, Governor Christie rather give a break to polluters. It is outrageous that we are spending all this money rebuilding our beaches, but our Governor wants to turn them into ashtrays,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  

Toni Granato