Being signed into law Friday is S2534. Governor Murphy's signature will breathe fresh air into a years-long attempt to ban smoking at all public beaches and parks in New Jersey. It will mean big fines for anyone caught smoking in parks or beaches. First offenders will be hit with at least a $250 fine. Being caught a second time will cost you $500. A third offense or more will be $1,000 every time. That's one expensive cigarette!

As much as it may seem unfair to smokers, all the griping now won't change anything. It's here. The only saving grace is that there's a provision in the new law which says if a town wants to designate part of their beach as a smoking area they may, but no more than 15%. That's a big 'if' however, because many towns have already been banning smoking on their own without such a provision, and it will probably be more trouble than it's worth to create those designated zones. I would expect few beaches to offer it.

So now that the arguing is done, where will the money go? Here's their plan. Fines collected will be split 50/50. 50% will go to the Treasury of the State of New Jersey and be dedicated to smoking cessation programs. The other 50% will be paid to the treasury of whichever municipality the violation occurred.

Nice money for townships, so that will mean more incentive to truly enforce this law. As far as that first 50% going towards smoking cessation programs? The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. That seems to be the way things go in Trenton. They will dedicate these funds to cessation programs, but the moment they need a little caulk for the general budget I bet you that money will be gone in a flash.

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