Let’s Ban Smoking at the Shore!

Contrary to common practice, all that sand is not a giant ashtray.

On a recent Sunday at the PATCO station at 9th-10th and Locust, five people were waiting for a train to New Jersey. At the same exact moment, four of us turned our heads in the same direction. One passenger had lit a cigarette in a place where smoking is not allowed.

Soon, hopefully, this will be the same reaction to anyone who lights up on the beaches of the Jersey Shore, where cigarette butts make up the number one type of debris

A new proposed bill would ban smoking in all New Jersey state parks, beaches and wildlife management areas, making one blanket policy for everyone to follow. It’s about time for New Jersey, which in 2006 became the 11th state to ban indoor smoking.

Right now, we have a patchwork of laws and ordinances when it comes to the shore. A few examples: In Seaside Park, smoking is banned on all beaches and boardwalks. Long Branch and Sunset Beach in Cape May County are also smoke free. Smoking is banned on the boardwalk in Belmar, and on sections of its beaches. Harvey Cedars and Ship Bottom have banned beach smoking while lifeguards are on duty. Ocean City has designated smoking areas on its boardwalk. Cape May tried to pass an beach smoking ban in 2012, but the proposal was shot down by the argument that it would hurt tourism.

I don’t buy that. Belmar saw a 17.6% jump in beach tag sale the year after it restricted smoking on its beaches. I heard similar shrill scare tactics in advance of New Jersey’s 2006 indoor smoking ban, and that didn’t quite pan out. The big exemption is casinos, but that’s a mountain too big to climb right now, given that the state continues to throw good money after bad in Atlantic City, and too many politicans think that allowing one addiction to feed into another is going to inject new life into our flailing gambling halls. (I hope Revel enjoys the new cleaning bills on all that gorgeous white, textured wall art that’s going to turn yellow now that they allow smoking.)

Banning smoking on our beaches and in our parks, however, is a no-brainer, especially given that 85% of adults don’t smoke.

There’s no upshot to smoking. None. Not for smokers (the risks here are obvious), non-smokers (second hand smoke is a carcinogen), or for the beaches onto which the butts are thrown, where kids digging in the sand can pick them up and stick them in their mouths. Now that smoking is banned from bars, restaurants and malls (yes, I remember when shoppers could smoke in the Deptford Mall), the smell is more pungent where it does still live. I sure can smell a cigarette lit on the beach. We’re more sensitive to that smell now that it’s banned in so many places, which is why all four of us simultaneously whipped our heads toward the offender in that PATCO station that Sunday morning.

Smokers already schlep outside in all sorts of weather if they want to smoke while at a bar. They’ll do the same to a designated area if we ban smoking on beaches. If they want to destroy their lungs, they, of course, can go right ahead and do it together in a defined space. They don’t need to hurt me and New Jersey’s biggest tourism asset at the same time.

  • anndelaney1822

    It’s amazing how strong the cigarette (or worse yet, cigar) smell can be on the beach. I look around before committing to a spot- and have actually moved if I’m down wind from a smoker. It seems reasonable to expect only FRESH air at the beach.

  • Jack Cotter

    I think it’s way more about butts in the sand. The bad kind, not the good kind.

    • J.Oz

      Absolutely…that’s called litter. I’m pretty sure that’s covered, no?

  • Bridget Mead

    Amen! Nothing worse than the smell of the salty ocean air being cut by a stinky cigar or cigarette!

    • Rob Parmley

      Yes there is, the smell of the ocean air being cut by nasty cheap perfume.

  • Debbie

    Get a life will ya! What about screaming kids on the beach, or dogs…when are they going to be banned??

  • L DeForest

    A total outrage! Smoking is NOT illegal. I’ll stop smoking outdoors as soon as the smoke stacks stop spewing dangerous chemicals into our air. As soon as diesel fuel is no longer blowing out of mufflers and soon as they stop spraying the farming fields with poision that is in our food. So, a little smoke blowing from a cigar or cigarette is NOT going to kill anyone in the open air. Check the air quality reports in the area you live in and take it a step further, do one in your home. Then see how freaked out you’ll be.

  • Jim Nash

    What’s next? No car’s with their emissions? No babies with their shitty diapers? Do you not like pizza? Cheese steaks? Suntan lotion? I’ve seen more garbage from food than anything on the beach. I’m a smoker. I put my butts in a container! You don’t like the smell? What’s it smell like in Philly?! IT’S THE OUTSIDE! WE ALL SHOULD BE ABLE TO USE IT EQUALLY! Maybe we don’t like your perfume? You couldn’t come up with something more intelligent than smoking on a beach to write about?
    Well, I’m only the 6th person to comment on your story….guess that speaks volumes on how much people are interested in what you write about…. Lol

  • Jim Nash

    Nothing like little kids running on the beach! Got sand in my eyes and scratched my cornea! I say we ban them damn kids! I jest…of course…. surely I can live with rambunctious children….just as easily as you can breathe fresh air on a beach….you whiners act as if the outside is the size of a bathroom! I actually ask those around me, every single time that I have the urge to smoke….Not yet have I been told that it wasn’t ok…If I was told that it wasn’t OK…I would move! We don’t need laws to live together and share a beach in NJ! Get a life…. we know how to communicate…we are adults. We don’t need your” Nanny” laws! I care about the people I’m around and don’t need to be taught common courtesy! So get off of your high horse and come down to our level…the air is just fine down here

    • b h

      as a former smoker. i decided to actually live my life to the fullest and give a crap about my health. smoking is slow suicide as well as a feelings supressant. why are the smokers so angry?! its laughable your ignorance around smoking. your litter ends up in our ocean. when did it become appropriate or respectable to hurt ourselves and be admired for it? i feel saddened by the above support for smoking and littering on our beaches. your welcome to go kill yourself. and ive asked inconsiderate smokers to move away from me and clean up after themselves. somebody has to speak up for the earth you smokers decide to harm. my hope is that you consider quitting to be around for your family and people that love you and experience the freedom and joy living addiction free. there will be a smoking ban on all beaches in this country. its just a matter of time. i support it without fail.

  • Rob Parmley

    Let me guess, the writer of this article is either a non smoker or an ex smoker. This is idiotic. I agree that people who throw down butts should be charged for littering. I’m offended by obese people but you don’t see them banning funnel cakes and soda on the beaches or citing obese people with indecent exposure when some wear swimming attire made for someone 10 sizes smaller. I could come up with thousands of offensive acts or behaviors that happen on the beach, none of which are being banned or being discussed about being banned. So long as the smoker isn’t violating anyone’s space or littering they should be left alone. You complain about the second hand smoke but yet you jump in your gas hog SUV that pours out more toxic emissions in a day than a smoker will in 10 lifetimes.

  • AudreySilk

    Most stunning is the logic of anti-smokers who whine about being around cigarette smoke on the beach… while they roast themselves under the carcinogenic sun. That sun is millions (literally) more times “dangerous” than a whiff of smoke in the great outdoors. So can you be more ridiculous?

    As for being offended by smells, no one has the right not to be offended. Move. Just like anyone else who finds themselves next to a situation that offends them. The only “expectation” anyone ever had (until the anti-smoker activists rewrote the script) from going to the beach is that there will be sand to sit on and a body of water to swim in. PERIOD.

    Good gosh, part of the anti-smoker script is that smokers “have an entitlement mentality” but it’s really you anti-smokers that believe you’re entitled to the world bowing at your feet for your preferences.

  • DeeMD215

    Its so idiotic no one is going to die from being out on a huge beach and someone smoking..no matter what they say about second hand smoke. Apparently these self rightous anti smokers dont mind that they are sitting out baking in the sun..risking skin cancer!! lmao I can see being mindful of those around you ..but last i heard its suppose to be a free country..and i always wonder if cigs give you every disease under the sun..why the hell are they sold and the gov’t using them to make money off or tax the hell out of them to pay for all the gov’t waste. Let’s ban big butts in skinny swimming suits or spoiled nasty kids..and trash ..cans beer bottles etc.

  • J.Oz

    “There’s no upshot to smoking. None.”

    So…you’ve decided for the entire Jersey shore and want a state mandated ban. You’re a CONTROL FREAK !!!

    GO AWAY !!!

    I’m with Cape May !!!

  • Billy Baroo

    Love how smokers change the argument. The point is the butts, not the smoke blowing over the ocean you morons. Sure some folks litter, duh…but how many times a day do you see a lazy f*ck in their car just flick a butt out the window while driving? You think any one of those asswipes takes a moment to throw away a butt on the beach? End of argument, the prosecution rests.

  • Jack Dodge

    Smokers are like oral fixated toddlers. You take away that lit binky and it opens up the temper tirade hissy fit. If you ask them not to smoke or please don’t litter then they become victims worse than tired irritable children asked to stop whining and they end up whining even more. Eventually they’ll calm down, take a nap, wake up, then accept the new rules. Smokin’ kids! They’re so cute when you take away their bad habits.

  • http://smokingblows.blogspot.com/ Cole Durkee

    Here’s a list of the rules already in effect for using Delmar Beach in NJ.

    It’s a long list, and already includes no smoking, no loud music, no alcohol, no glass containers, no littering, no uncontrolled pets, etc. Those things are “banned”.

    Why do they institute these rules? Because people are selfish. History has shown that some people can’t be considerate enough to care about others’ rights to enjoy the beach, and the municipality has to intervene.

    Makes sense, right?

    But, why is it that when blog posts are written about banning smoking on beaches (or other public spaces), are so many commenters come out of the woodwork to protest against it? Why are these commenters only protesting against a smoking ban, but not addressing the bans on alcohol, loud music, or anything else?

    Just something to think about. Learn more.

  • Tracey Janis McCarthy

    As a reformed smoker I would never preach about not smoking on the beach – what is truly disgusting though is the butts all over the sand – come on people really ?

  • b h

    when i used to smoke i did it to cover up feelings or “de-stress”. its a coping mechanism. take it away and whats left? irritable, angry people who cant wait for the next fix! you are active addicts with medication (nicotine). and yes the government support of smoking is deeply sad. population control perhaps? again, the goal here is larger than a beach smoking ban. in my eyes its a call for change, to live in reality and care about ourselves!! smokers: ask yourself this. would the 8 year old kid in you smoke? what child looks forward to smoking?! smokers are not in touch with their feelings or themselves therefore their arguments are invalid. this cannot be argued. saving the world is great but we have to save ourselves first. be around for you children, quit smoking.

  • VW

    One can only hope this will pass! For everybody’s health and for our clean beaches. I own “down the shore” and nothing bothers me more than settling in for a beautiful beach day and then have someone light up and the wind takes all the smoke my way (not to them- but to me!). I’m a 3 time breast cancer survivor and the last thing I want is someone else’s smoke to breathe. And yes, we can surely do without the butts!