Smokers will still be able to light up at many public parks and beaches in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie yesterday vetoed a bill (A-1080) to ban the practice, saying the prohibition of smoking in parks and beaches is best left up to local officials, noting that 240 towns and counties already have ordinances that ban smoking in municipal and county parks.
“I am not persuaded that a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all state ban on smoking at public parks and beaches is advisable at this time,’’ the governor said in a veto message released by his press office. “Too often policy-makers at more centralized levels of government encroach into areas of public policy previously reserved for more localized governing bodies.’’
Others disagreed with that assessment, with the sponsor of the bill calling it a blow to both public health and the environment.
“Tobacco is the leading cause or preventable death in this country, and everyone is aware of the dangers of second-hand smoking in this day and age,’’ said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The damage discarded cigarettes do our already fragile ecosystems is also well-documented.’’
Smoking is already forbidden in many public spaces, including restaurants, bars, and workplaces. The bill sponsored by Huttle would protect public health, reduce litter, and curb the threat of devastating forest fires.
According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, it picked up more than 500 cigarette butts in a beach cleanup day sponsored by the organization. Jeff Tittel, director of the club, noted an amendment to the bill established a 15 percent set-aside for smokers on municipal and county beaches.
“By vetoing this legislation, the Governor sided with the tobacco lobby over protecting our environment and health,’’ Tittel said, “Instead of trying to ban smoking in our parks, he is turning them into an ashtray,’’ he said.