LONG BRANCH — Smoking will be banned on New Jersey's beaches and boardwalks starting in January.

With the stroke of a pen under the sunshine on the boardwalk, Gov. Phil Murphy made a smoking ban the law up and down the Jersey Shore.

"It's a great day for New Jersey, it's a great day for the country," Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), told New Jersey 101.5.

Long Branch was the first town in New Jersey to implement a smoke-free policy on the beach.

"New Jersey is the first state in the union to have a law than bans smoking and vaping at all state, county and local parks and beaches. New Jersey leads once again," she said. "We're glad that the governor was able to sign the bill in a community that was a leader."

Murphy said it was a "tremendous day" for those concerned about the cleanliness of the beaches.

"While many of us look out and see white sand and surf, others regrettably see the Jersey Shore as a roughly 130-mile-long ash tray," Murphy said.

Fines would start at $250 for a first offense and go up to $1,000 for a third offense.

Murphy said that the results of the 2017 beach sweep by Clean Ocean Action showed that the litter collected by volunteers contained more than 29,000 cigarette butts, more than 1,150 lighters, nearly 1,900 empty cigarette packs and 7,172 cigar tips.

"Cigarette butts threaten marine wildlife as a choking hazard and are capable of leeching deadly toxins," Murphy said.

The new law will take effect in 180 days on Jan. 16, 2019. Towns will be allowed to create a small smoking area on the beach. It did not address, however, who will enforce the law.

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

Blumenfeld said 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.

Material from the Associated Press was used it this report.

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

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