TRENTON — When smoking is banned on all New Jersey public beaches next summer, will it come down to the lifeguards to enforce the law?

The law that was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 20 in Long Branch, the first New Jersey shore community to ban smoking, does not specify how the law is to be enforced.

This season was the first for North Wildwood's own boardwalk smoking ban, which is enforced by police, according to Mayor Patrick Rosenello.

"As to who will enforce on the beach, it will not be the lifeguard, as they need to focus on the water. I am not sure if the new state law indicates who is the primary enforcement agency," the mayor said.

The closest the new law comes to instructing who should enforce it is a directive to the state Department of Environmental Protection to "provide information and assistance to counties and municipalities, as determined to be appropriate by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, and within the limits of resources available to the department for this purpose, to support smoke-free public beaches."

Murphy said it shouldn't be lifeguards, but left it to towns to decide enforcement. But in some towns ... lifeguards it is.

In Harvey Cedars, smoking is prohibited between the lifeguard flags of designated swimming areas while lifeguards are on duty, according to Beach Patrol spokesman Brian Devlin.

"Lifeguards enforce this ordinance when they see it occurring. If the situation required the involvement of the police department, they could be called in to issue a summons. Beach patrons smoking between the flags have always cooperated with the lifeguards," he said.

Police in Long Branch have been responsible for enforcing the ban, according to acting Business Administrator Kevin Hayes.

Long Branch enacted its ban in 2003. It was expanded in 2017 to include electronic cigarettes by the city council after complaints were received by beach staff, Hayes said.

"We have a number of Class 1 and Class 2 police officers assigned to the beach front during the season," he said.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), told New Jersey 101.5 that the Smoke Free Air Act allows local, county and state health department officials and cops to enforce the law. She is confident it will be worked out by next summer.

Gregory Conley, president of the New Jersey-based American Vaping Association, thinks the law will not be well-enforced.

"I suspect that you're not supposed to be drinking alcohol on the beach but every time I go to Wildwood or some similar destination there are people violating that law. People are going to continue violating the laws with smoking and vaping and in most instances nothing will happen," Conley said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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