Skip the Cigarettes or Face Fines at New Jersey's Public Beaches

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey, where a day pass to enjoy sun and sand can cost $10, has outlawed smoking at all public beaches and state parks.

Smoke them now, because starting in February, anyone who lights up can be fined $250 for the first offense and as much as $1,000 for recurrent violations. The law applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes and electronic devices.

“This beach is not an ashtray,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford who sponsored the bill.

The legislation has languished for years at the state level, prompting 18 New Jersey towns to enact their own bans, according to the state Sierra Club, an environmental group. Cigarette butts are the most common litter collected during annual sweeps by Clean Ocean Action, a non-profit environmental group that last year counted 29,000 butts, plus hundreds of lighters and empty packages.

The bill was written to cut litter, fire risk and exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the text. The ban also will reduce choking and poison hazards to marine life, Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat who took office in January, said at the bill signing in Long Branch.

The state already bans smoking in public buildings, restaurants and bars.

New Jersey’s cigarette tax is 10th-highest in the U.S. at $2.70 per pack, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit research group. The state’s minimum retail price is $5.27 to $11.07 for a 20-count pack.

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