Senate Committee To Consider Bill Banning Smoking At Parks & Beaches

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TRENTON – The state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will consider a bill today that would ban smoking at all state, county and municipal parks and beaches.

An avid runner, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono has drawn from her personal experiences running in public parks, prompting this legislation.  “This issue has been on my agenda for a long time,” she said. “Now we have empirical data which support the passage of this public health and environmental protection measure.”

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A Stanford University study published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, (JAWMA) in 2007, represents the first peer-reviewed publication providing evidence that levels of outdoor tobacco smoke (OTS), can be substantial under certain circumstances.

Children who accompany a smoking parent or guardian outdoors can experience significant exposure to tobacco smoke, the study found.  It also found that even short-term exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke for people who are at risk of coronary heart disease or have known coronary artery disease “might be life threatening.”

“This in-depth study substantiates that even brief exposure within a few feet of someone smoking outdoors can be significant.  That finding which measures OTS and estimates its health risks must guide outdoor tobacco control policy,” ,” said Buono (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of the bill.

She said an Institute of Medicine report found restrictions on smoking in public protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke, help smokers quit or cut down on their smoking and reinforce non-smoking as a social norm.
Buono noted other localities are considering similar bans, including New York City and the State of California, where the sponsors have cited the damage to the marine environment, in addition to the well-documented health risks to non-smokers.

The sponsor of the California bill pointed out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined cigarette butts are the most frequently found marine debris item in the United States. And wild fires caused by cigarettes have destroyed thousands of homes and cars in California and caused literally billions of dollars in damage.

“Cigarettes are legal and adults have the right choose whether they want to smoke,” Buono said. “But they don’t have a right to impose upon the non-smoking public the health risks and environmental degradation caused by smoking. Our public parks and beaches are paid for by taxpayers and should be available for use by everyone without having to worry about being harmed by the hazards associated with secondhand smoke.”

Specifically, this bill would prohibit smoking at any state park or forest, county or municipal park, or state or municipal beach, but would not include any parking lot that is adjacent to but outside the public park or beach.  If approved by the committee today, the bill could see a vote before the full Senate on Monday.

Photo by Flickr user  Mykl Roventine


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