Smokefree Outdoor Environments
Outdoor smoking is a public health hazard. Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure outdoors can harm nonsmokers, plus smoking materials harm the environment. Concentrations of outdoor secondhand smoke can be as high as indoor concentrations, depending on where the smoking is taking place and the amount of secondhand smoke present.
Throughout the United States, hundreds of local governments have enacted smokefree air legislation for outdoor areas, especially recreational facilities like parks, playgrounds, and beaches, as well as school grounds and near buildings.
Many New Jersey communities have laws or policies that restrict smoking in their parks and recreational areas. Some make all parks and recreational areas 100% smokefree; others have partial bans. Read GASP's list of all New Jersey municipalities and counties that restrict smoking in parks and recreational areas, sorted by county. If you would like detailed information on a specific law or policy, or technical assistance on smokefree parks and recreational areas, contact GASP at 908-273-9368 or email@example.com. GASP can connect you with local partners to provide free help on smokefree parks and recreational areas!
NJDOH Commissioner Mary O'Dowd's March 2013 newsletter, NJ Health Matters, highlights local and county smokefree parks activity. The article, "Smokefree Air Ordinances Proliferating", features a photo of Paterson City Council President Anthony E. Davis with Paterson coalition member Lakeshia Evans and her daughter Scotland, celebrating the smokefree parks ribbon-cutting ceremony at at Paterson's 100% smokefree Eastside Park.
Read our white paper on Smokefree Outdoor Recreational Areas supporting outdoor smoking bans which help:
- Protect people, especially children who congregate at parks, playgrounds and beaches, from secondhand smoke. Studies show that concentrations of secondhand smoke, equivalent to indoors, can exist outside.
- Set a standard that promotes public health by creating healthful environments for outdoor exercise and activities, and helps to normalize smokefree environments.
- Eliminate the concern of cigarette butts that are ingested by children and animals.
- Reduce litter and the increased costs for a municipality and the State for clean-up efforts.
- Reduce accidental fires caused by discarded cigarette butts in forests and parks.
- Improve oceanic and marine life, due to reduced amount of butts flowing into lakes, bays, and ocean. Read a presentation on the impact of cigarette litter on the environment, by Lauren Radano, the Rebel Coordinator for Cumberland County, NJ.
- Facilitate the preservation of land and water for conservation and recreational purposes.
On August 6, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the "Protecting Your Children from Tobacco" webpage which provides recommendations to parents on how to help children stay tobacco-free. Included in the category "What your Community Can Do to Help Prevent Youth Tobacco Use" is to "Ban smoking in public places—such as workplaces, schools... and parks".
Read our 2012 Success Story with 100% smokefree parks in Passaic County, NJ. The concentrations of SHS in outdoor settings can be as high as those in indoor settings where smoking takes place. Read air quality expert James Repace's research paper that supports smokefree outdoor regulations.
On February 2, 2011, New York City banned smoking at all public parks including pedestrian plazas, beaches, boardwalks and much more. This took effect May 2011.
The US District Court of Appeals For the 8th Circuit, which represents Eastern Missouri, upheld the lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit involving a plaintiff who challenged a city ordinance in Clayton which prohibits outdoor smoking in city parks. Both court decisions support the right of municipalities to pass ordinances restricting smoking in outdoor public places. Read the November 8, 2012 court decision from the case.
Some communities are requiring sidewalks in business districts or other areas be smokefree because merchants complain that smoke enters their storefronts and customers complain. As of As of January 2011, Great Neck, Long Island (New York) prohibits smoking on sidewalks in front of commercial buildings, Village Green park, and the Housing Authority; it stretches one mile. Smoking also is prohibited in the Village Green Park, the Village's Housing Authority and on benches in municipal parking lots. Fines are up to $1,000. Read the CNN Story. On September 27, 2011, Concord City, California enacted an ordinance requiring a 17-block downtown business district be 100% smokefree, including banning the use of e-cigarettes.
Internationally, bans are also proliferating to protect people in heavily populated areas. South Korea has designated a busy section of Main Street smokefree in the capital city of Gangnam, South Korea and violaters will be fined beginning in March 2012 after a 3 month probationary period. Read a news article about the South Korean ban.
Hospitals, businesses and colleges are instituting 100% smokefree campus policies. Read more about smokefree college campuses.
Cigarette-related debris ranked 5th for the first time in 19 years of holding one of the top 3 spots for the most collected by the NJ Clean Ocean Action’s organized beach clean-up. Smokefree Belmar Beach Mayor Matthew Doherty is quoted, "The ban on smoking has had a positive impact on our beach. We always have people who oppose it, but the benefit far outweighs any inconvenience someone may have. People are becoming accustomed to smoking bans in public places." Read the April 11, 2012 Star Ledger news article about the beach clean-up.
New Jersey has enacted legislation and regulations that require outdoor smokefree environments:
- The 2006 New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act (NJSFAA) prohibits smoking outdoors on all public and private K-12 school grounds (NJS 26:3D-58 at http://www.njgasp.org/sfaa_2010_w-ecigs.pdf, and NJAC 8:6-7.1 and 2 at http://njgasp.org/nj_admin_code.pdf)
- 2007 New Jersey Department of Health Regulations prohibit smoking at an exterior area, if smoking in the exterior area results in migration, seepage, or recirculation of smoke to an indoor public place or a workplace at which smoking is prohibited (NJAC 8:6-2.3a and 2.3b) at http://njgasp.org/nj_admin_code.pdf.
- The 2007 NJ Department of Health Regulations require that playgrounds, and recreational places owned by local municipalities, private entities or other individuals, be 100% smoke free, when a school district has exclusive use of a portion of such land. N.J.A.C. 8:6-7.2(b)(3). http://njgasp.org/nj_admin_code.pdf)
Voluntary Outdoor Smokefree Policies; Public Support
Many business owners have instituted 100% smokefree outdoor policies for their properties. In New Jersey, this includes the outdoor seating and pedestrian areas in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. College campuses are starting to implement 100% smokefree campus policies, and at least 100 hospital campuses in New Jersey have a 100% smokefree policy.
Public support is growing for outdoor bans. Read a letter to the editor supporting an outdoor smoking ban at the Somerville, NJ car show.
Last update: 4/10/13