BELMAR, NJ — While state law now bans smoking on all New Jersey public beaches, it’s been five years since lighting up became totally off-limits along Belmar’s beach and boardwalk.
And according to Belmar officials, there have been few problems — or complaints — caused by the restriction, which has been successfully enforced by the police department.
“Our police and special officers along the beachfront take the ban seriously, and I have personally seen them enforce it,” said Councilman James McCracken, who is its liaison for beach operations. “There are places on Ocean Avenue, where people can go and smoke.”
The smoking ban legislation signed last summer by Gov. Phil Murphy that took effect on January 16 does not specify how the ban will be enforced, leaving it to each municipality to decide. It also gives each town the discretion of setting up a separate area for smokers.
When Belmar became the first Jersey Shore community to implement a seasonal smoking ban in 2001, it also allowed smoking in certain areas of the beachfront — a situation that brought its own set of headaches, including smokers who would not stay within those designated area.
So in 2014, the borough strengthened and simplified its ordinance by banning smoking along the entire 1.3-mile oceanfront, including the beach and boardwalk, and keeping the ban in place year round. It also applies to the L Street Beach situated along the Shark River, adjacent to Maclearie Park.
Since the new state law carries heftier penalties than those in Belmar’s ordinance, the borough will need to review both for compatibility, McCracken said. Violators of the state law are subject to a $250 fine for their first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. First-time offenders of Belmar’s ordinance face a $25 fine with a maximum penalty of $250. In addition, under the borough’s littering law, the disposal of cigarette or cigar butts on the beach can result in a $100 fine and two days of community service.
The new state law also extends the smoking ban to public parks, which in Belmar includes the five beachfront playgrounds, five major parks, two more additional playgrounds and “pocket parks” scattered throughout the borough.
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