Bill to ban outdoor tobacco use on all NJ college campuses advances – Hunterdon County Democrat

TRENTON — College students, already banned from smoking in their dorm rooms, also wouldn’t be able to walk out onto the quad to have a cigarette under a bill advancing in the state Assembly.

The Assembly Higher Education Committee today voted 4-3 to approve the bill (A1978), which would ban the use of all tobacco products in outdoor areas of college campuses, where they’re already banned indoors.

Advocates said the bill would give New Jersey the strictest college campus smoking ban in the nation.

“Ninety percent of persons who start smoking, they do so before the age of 21,” said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), the bill’s sponsor. “Most students enter college around 18. If they’re influenced by friends, this is where they’re starting.”

The bill comes as New Jersey officials attempt to strengthen the state’s already strict anti-smoking laws. In March, the Assembly passed a bill that would ban smoking at all public parks and beaches. Belmar, a popular tourist destination, on Tuesday banned smoking anywhere on its boardwalk or beach. The town had previously allowed smoking in some areas.

The campus ban wouldn’t just be for cigarettes , cigars and pipes. Electronic cigarettes, chewing tobacco, dip and other types of tobacco products would be included as well.

Fines for those caught violating the ban would start at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 each time after.

Seventeen New Jersey colleges or universities already ban smoking anywhere on campus, according to the American Cancer Society. At least 23 ban smoking on most parts of campus, but allow it in designated areas.

Ethan Hasbrouck, state advocacy director for the American Cancer Society, said 1,343 college campuses around the country have gone smoke-free. While three states have banned smoking at all their public colleges and universities, only one – Iowa – has banned it at public and private schools.

But Hasbrouck said the bill is broader than any other state’s law.

“This is a real opportunity for all New Jersey colleges and universities to work together to support the health of their campus,” Hasbrouck said.

Riley, the bill’s sponsor, had initially been unclear whether electronic cigarettes were included in the legislation. But Hasbrouck advised the committee that they would fall under the bill’s scope.

That prompted some opposition to the bill. The four Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill, while the three Republicans voted against it.

Assemblyman Gregory McGuckin (R-Ocean) said he liked the idea, but thought banning e-cigarettes was a “bridge too far.”

Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-Essex) said that even though he supported the bill he would like to see e-cigarettes exempted.

E-cigarettes, which deliver nicotene in the form of water vapor, have been a controversial topic. Advocates for the product claim it’s a safer alternative to smoking, while many anti-smoking advocates claim that they’re so new to the market that there hasn’t been adequate time to study their health effects.

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