“Get the butts off the beach. Cigarette butts that is.”
That was the message Gov. Phil Murphy got across Friday at a bill-signing at the Long Branch boardwalk outlawing smoking on public beaches in the state.
The law, Senate Bill 2534, which goes into effect Jan. 1, also extends the smoking ban to any state, county and municipal parks. A first-time violation results in a $250 fine, followed by $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for any additional offense.
New Jersey already has smoking bans at its state-owned beaches and parks, and a handful of towns have enacted their own laws.
“This beach is not an ashtray,” added Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, one of S2534’s sponsors. “This is one of the greatest resources that New Jersey has.”
The law still allows the town to designate up to 15 percent of a beach for smoking, and does not extend to adjacent parking lots. The law gives towns discretion over how they enforce the ban.
“By this time next year, the only smell most New Jersey beachgoers will be enjoying will be the scent of salt air and maybe the aroma of some grill sausage, French fries and funnel cakes wafting off the boardwalks,” Murphy said.
At Friday’s signing, Murphy highlighted a 2017 Jersey shore clean-up by the environmental group Clean Ocean Action, which reported finding 29,000 cigarette butts, 1,155 lighters and 1,870 cigarette packages.