Gov. Chris Christie recently conditionally vetoed legislation that would have prohibited smoking at all public parks and beaches in New Jersey. Under the Governor’s proposed changes, the law would be limited to state-owned property.
The proposed legislation (A-893/S-1734) extends the provisions of the New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act, which generally prohibit smoking in indoor public places and workplaces, to apply to public parks and beaches throughout New Jersey. As originally proposed, the bill’s restrictions would apply to 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.
The penalties that currently apply to a person who smokes in violation of the New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act would apply to a comparable violation under the bill. The penalties include a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
In his veto message, Gov. Christie stated that “a one-size-fits-all approach to prohibiting smoking outdoors at locally-run parks and beaches was an inappropriate encroachment by the State into an area of public policy properly reserved for local governments.” He noted that “all towns would be obligated to post at their own expense ‘no smoking’ signs at all entrances to their parks and beaches that conform to the dictates of this bill and enforce the ban under threat of fines for failing to do so.” Accordingly, Gov. Christie maintains that New Jersey municipalities and counties should be able to effectuate and enforce such bans in their own ways, noting that many have done so already.
Going forward, the Governor stated that he is “willing to endorse a measure that bans smoking at State-run parks and beaches, but that does not interfere with parks and beaches within the jurisdiction of local governments.” He returned the bill with his recommendations. The Assembly will now reconsider the bill. We will be tracking its progress and will post updates as they become available.
For more information about the proposed legislation or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.