Princeton votes to ban outdoor smoking

March 20, 2013 6:35:03 AM PDT
Outdoor smoking has been banned on town property in Princeton, New Jersey.

The township's Board of Health voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance Tuesday night.

It does not allow people to light up within 35 feet of all municipally owned property, public parks and outdoor pools.

The ban goes into effect next month.

Princeton led the way back in 2000 banning smoking in public places.

The effort to ban outdoor smoking is being led by Councilwoman Heather Howard, a former New Jersey health commissioner.

"You shouldn't have to be subject to secondhand smoke. There's increasing research about the dangers of secondhand smoke especially on young kids. So the idea of making our parks and public areas smoke free is a really important step we can take to promote public health," Howard said.

Reaction to the proposal is mostly favorable.

"I think it's a great idea. I'm a non-smoker, a reformed smoker, I'm very sensitive to it," Terry Bingert of Lawrenceville, New Jersey said.

Barbara Bickford, a grandmother visiting from New Hampshire, agrees.

"Oh, it's a health hazard. The kids get exposed to it, the lungs go, it's just not good for you," Bickford said.

"If I'm out at a game I just want to enjoy it without breathing it in and not being annoyed," Megan Rafter of Longport said.

But others we talked with think banning smoking outdoors at parks and pools goes too far.

"I understand that if the smoke's too close to somebody it could bother them, but especially if you're in an open area or a private place, people should have the right to do what they want," Paul Dildarian of East Brunswick said.

Over 160 towns throughout New Jersey have similar bans. Local health inspectors and Princeton police would be in charge of issuing tickets and enforcing the ban.

There's a $250 fine for violators, but officials say this isn't about bringing in revenue. What they really want to do is change behavior.

"We know that smoking is the number one preventable cause of death so we ought to be doing more to protect people," Howard said.

The ban would take effect 20 days after it's approved and won't cost the town a cent because the American Cancer Society says it will pay for no smoking signs.