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South Plainfield Adopts a Smoke-Free Ordinance

The Borough has had since 2006 a ban on smoking in the parks and playgrounds, except in marked “smoking allowed” areas. The Mayor and Council have amended the ordinance to expand the smoke-free zones. It is not a very large change, but it signals a stronger stand against public smoking. It no longer allows for designated smoking areas in the parks. It will allow people to leave Borough Hall on Court Day without having to pass through a cloud of smoke. Smoking is banned within a 35-foot radius around the front door of municipal buildings and within a 25-foot radius of other doors with public access.

It’s been about thirty years since the NJ State legislature first banned smoking in government buildings, and since then, public smoking has been increasingly restricted. Epidemiological evidence about the health effects of second-hand smoke has been used to justify bans in more and more venues. Many people remember smoke-filled workplaces, airplanes and restaurants, and are glad to be done with that.

Smoking bans have been moving into the outdoors. Shore towns have begun prohibiting smoking on the beach. There are currently 150 New Jersey towns that have declared themselves 100% smoke-free. Since smoke is more diluted outdoors, some may question whether it is enough of a nuisance to warrant a ban. But, according to NJ GASP, medical studies have found evidence of tobacco byproducts in the blood of people standing near outdoor smokers.

Moreover, many believe the effect of cigarette butts on the environment is enough reason. Estimates vary, but the number of cigarette butts that end up as litter is huge. Butts can make up to 30% of the pieces of litter found in roadside cleanups. During two days of NJ beach cleanup in 2010, volunteers collected over 50,000 pieces of discarded smoking materials. Cigarette butts are toxic. Consider that the filters are there to trap poisons before they reach the lungs. Butts can sit on the ground for years, leaching those poisons out into the environment. They can be eaten by wildlife.

The governing body adopted the new ordinance at the urging of the Borough’s Green Team, as part of the Sustainability program. The program seeks to set policies, procedures and infrastructure in place that will ensure the current quality of life is available to all Borough residents of future generations.