Smokers not allowed on these Jersey Shore beaches
Ahead of the summer season, there's a push by state lawmakers to prohibit smoking on all beaches in New Jersey. But many coastal towns already have had their own bans in place, in some cases for years.
Belmar, for example, has had a smoking ban on the books since the spring of 2014, and Mayor Matt Doherty believes it has directly resulted in a spike in business for the beachfront area.
"Last year, when the ban was in full effect and people really knew about it, we had more people come to Belmar last summer than any other summer in our history," Doherty told New Jersey 101.5. "We probably should have done it years ago, and it helps us market our town as a more family-friendly and healthier experience."
As an added bonus, Doherty said, workers no longer have to scour the beaches each morning to gather cigarette butts.
"It was disgusting. It was unhealthy," he said of the pre-ban days. "Children would build sandcastles and use the cigarette butts that they found to decorate the sandcastles."
A beach-and-boardwalk smoking ban has been in place in Seaside Park for a number of years, and according to Borough Administrator Bob Martucci, "it's the right thing to do," whether an ordinance is passed on the local level or state lawmakers and the governor require a ban.
"The beach isn't an ashtray; the ocean isn't one, either," Martucci said.
The ban is "self-patrolled" and enforced by the beach's lifeguards and badge checkers. Martucci said police get involved only if someone is unwilling to put out their cigarette.
Both houses of the state legislature are expected to vote on a measure Thursday that would prohibit smoking on all New Jersey beaches.
On Tuesday, Senate President Steve Sweeney visited Belmar to show his support for the Democrat-sponsored legislation.
“We are going to move forward on the bill to ban smoking at New Jersey’s beaches as a way to keep dangerous secondhand smoke away from the people who use our beaches — especially the children — and as a means of keeping our beaches clean," Sweeney said at a boardwalk news conference.
Under the measure, municipalities and counties could designate up to 15 percent of a beach as a smoking area.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure in 2014, insisting smoking bans should be enacted at the local level. The Governor's Office would not comment on the current pending legislation.
If passed by both houses and signed by the governor, the measure would not take effect for another 180 days.
According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, the following municipalities feature smoke-free beaches as of early April of this year:
- Beach Haven (approved in May, starts June 8)
- Burlington Township
- Cape May Point Borough
- Island Heights Borough
- Lavallette Borough (bay beaches only)
- Long Branch
- Mount Arlington Borough
- Point Pleasant Borough
- Rockaway Township
- Seaside Park
- Somers Point
- Spring Lake Borough
- Stafford Township
- Surf City Borough
- Wayne Township
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com