Smoking ban may come ashore

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. - September 23, 2009 Concerns about the danger of secondhand smoke triggered a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in New Jersey back in 2006, but now there's talk about expanding the ban to all beaches and public parks.

"I love it. I hope they stop it. You want to smoke? Go in your house and sit there and smoke your head off," Steve Salley of Seaside Heights said.

"I don't appreciate secondhand smoke. I don't want my children around it. I quit smoking when I was pregnant to keep that away from my children so I think it's a good idea," Tricia Butera of Allentown, New Jersey said.

However, smokers like George Harris say a ban at all parks and beaches goes too far.

"If I'm here smoking a cigarette and you're over there, what am I doing to you? I'm not inside, I'm outside, you know? Why are you messing with me now?" Harris said.

This summer in Seaside Heights, smoking was limited on the beach to within 20 feet of the boardwalk. Local officials say that worked out well and are against the idea of the state imposing a complete ban.

"We don't like them setting our policies and so we'd rather do our own thing. And in addition to that, yes, we don't like the idea of discouraging anybody from coming to our beach, smokers or non," Borough Administrator John Camera said.

Apart from the health benefits, supporters say a smoking ban would prevent people from using the beach as an ashtray. Last year in one sweep of beaches, volunteers collected almost 50,000 cigarette butts.

"The kids are playing and they dig their bucket in the sand and they come up with a bucket of cigarette butts," Andy Langer of Lafayette, Colorado said.

"I think it's a healthier environment for people to be in, but there's a little part of me that says people do have their own rights," Bonnie Dering of Lawrenceville, New Jersey said.

A bill banning smoking at beaches and parks will be introduced to lawmakers shortly, but the discussion is already underway.

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