By Candace Kelley
William Dietrich says if he wants to smoke a cigarette, he has to leave his home, walk down the street and go around the corner off of Monmouth Street to light up. And for him, that’s a drag.
“I should be able to at least sit on my step and smoke a cigarette,” he said.
A new law bans smoking on two blocks on Monmouth Street including the one where he lives. Over 200 towns in New Jersey have some kind of smoking ban in parks and on beaches, but this smoking ban is the first of its kind to ban smoking in a shopping district. The culprit for this ban? Those pesky cigarette butts littering the streets. The fine for getting caught smoking on these streets or in your car on Monmouth Street could cost you $100 to $150 for the first offense and $500 to $1,000 for the second.
“If they’re gonna do anything they should put at least on every block a cigarette urn,” Dietrich said.
Ray Saunders is a member of the Independent Citizens Athletic Club where many of the city’s social events are held. He says that there were always smoke butts in a lot next to the building before the ban. But he says laws are already on the books for this type of littering.
“Put the smoking butts where they belong, not on the street or the sidewalk,” Saunders said.
City officials say that the smoking ban is just a small part of the redevelopment of this Monmouth Street corridor. And they want to make sure everyone is put on notice that the smoking ban even exists.
The redevelopment plans for Monmouth Street — made almost two years ago — are in full swing thanks to an Urban Development Action Grant and an Urban Enterprise Zone loan. Monmouth Street and Broadway are the first areas to be redeveloped.
A “no smoking” sign sits in the window of Maurice Acevedo’s pharmacy. It was given to him by a representative of the mayor’s office. He hopes the smoking ban will help attract businesses to fill some of street’s empty storefronts.
“It was a lot of trash. And they don’t clean it. They smoke, they just leave the butts there on the street,” Acevedo said.
Meanwhile, this smoker says when those big fines start rolling in, some people may get a little puffed up and do something about what they see as their right to smoke.
“I do think people will get together and fight it, especially considering the fines that they’re going to be starting soon,” Dietrich said.
The law went into effect in September. Warning tickets were given out until October. Now if you are caught lighting up, police say they have the right to make you pay a fine.